Truck driver's quick decision saved a fellow driver's life in I-80 crash

COALVILLE, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) - An early morning accident shut down Interstate 80 for most of Wednesday morning.

The accident involved two semi-trucks that burst into flames. Utah highway patrol says both semi-trucks were carrying trailers. 

One of those semi-trucks blew a flat tire. That tire then ruptured an airline that controlled the brakes for the trailer it was pulling. 

The truck locked up and could not move all the way over. The semi was stuck on the right side of the highway, partially sticking out in the right lane.

That's when another semi smashed into the back of him, causing a major accident.

"The one driver is actually still alive at this point because of bystanders pulled him out of the burning semi," said Tyler Rowser with the North Summit Fire Department.

The man who saved him was also a truck driver. He did not want to be identified.

"I noticed flames shooting up in the air from about a mile away. So I came up to this accident site and then I noticed there were two vehicles in flames," said the good Samaritan truck driver.

Both trucks folded up like an accordion, underneath the cab of the truck.

"I don't know how he ended up outside of the cab but the cab was mangled.
It took me and a couple of people just to lift the cab off of him," said the truck driver.

The semi driver's next choice saved his life.

"We were kind of hesitant to move him because of his injuries and I felt it's better that we move him and let him be injured a little bit more than have him burn up in a thousand degree heat," he said. "As soon as we moved him, the other trailer on the right side had several explosions come off of it. That's when we knew it was a hazmat trailer."

Then more explosions happened.

"The far right left trailer was on fire and in flames on top of the frame of the gas tanks of the first truck and we knew they were going to go cause we were hearing them hiss. And as soon as we heard that, that trucks cargo started to explode," he added,

Inside one of the trucks was 500 car batteries and 440 gallons of acid magic, a cleaning substance for the batteries.

Fire crews let both trucks burn most of the chemicals out before putting them out.

"Environmental health from Summit County has been called out and they are responding to the scene and they will handle any clean up efforts from that," said Rowser.

"Either the other truck didn't see it and he probably didn't because it was dark. And this other truck didn't notice he lost his brakes," said the good Samaritan.

Tire markings from the locked up semi travel back a least half a mile from mile marker 182.

"This is the matter of life and this is a pretty dangerous stretch  road. A lot of drivers are so complacent on how they do their jobs that things like this happen because no one pays attention," he added.

I-80 Westbound will be closed near mile marker 182 until UDOT is able to repave the highway because the fire was very hot and damage was visible.

The Utah Highway Patrol tells drivers that are headed west are best to wait this out because there are not many viable options to get through the mountains.

The highway is not expected to be open until late afternoon or this evening.

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