Friday, August 12, 2022
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Connor Smith, 20, Saves Man from Burning Semi

Baxter resident Connor Smith, 20, found himself in the right place at the right time early Wednesday morning.

Smith helped pull a man from a burning tractor-trailer around 4 a.m. along I-40 eastbound on his way home from work.

“I was getting to the 264 mile marker and I ran into a gravel spot,” Smith said. “I looked over to my left and I saw a semi that had ran off the road. There was a car that stopped in front of me, and I pulled off a quarter mile down the road and sprinted to it.”

According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the driver struck a bluff along the interstate before bursting into flames. Smith said the force of the contact drove the front of the truck into the ground and pinned the driver inside the cab.

“I couldn’t open the door because it was jammed,” Smith said. “I tried punching the window out with my keys and that didn’t work. I tried punching it some more and I lost my footing and fell. When I did I fell on some rocks, so I picked those up and chucked them against the window [and] shattered it.”

Once inside the cab, Smith said he had to act fast as flames entered the cab and grew closer to the truck’s fuel tank.

“I tried getting him out and the smoke was overwhelming, so I jumped down, ran out, got a breath of air, and jumped back in,” Smith said. “I wrapped my arms around his armpits, put my feet on the cab, pulled as hard as I could and finally something gave way.”

That last effort by Smith was just enough to pull the driver away from the truck before the fire continued to spread.

“I turned around to grab my phone to use it as a flash light, and I took probably about 10 steps and turned around,” Smith said. “When I did, it was enough time to watch [the truck] blow up into flames.”

Smith said he stayed with the driver until emergency crews arrived on scene.

“I was in lots of panic, to say the least,” Smith said. “I tried to tell [crews] what happened because I didn’t see the semi go off the road. I just got there in time to help. I told them the guy was stuck on the inside and I helped pull him out.”

Smith said one other bystander was on the scene before him and had tried to get the man out before he arrived.

The driver of the semi was flown to Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville for treatment. Tennessee Highway Patrol Lt. Jimmy Neal said Wednesday morning the man suffered burns and possibly broke both legs in the accident. No word on his current condition. Smith suffered minor cuts and a sprained ankle during the rescue effort.

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