Meet the heroes who pulled the driver out of the overturned, burning big rig

18-wheeler crashed on Highway 281 near Hildebrand, snarling traffic for hours

SAN ANTONIO – Four men watched as a big rig crashed and burst into flames on Wednesday morning while they were parked at the intersection of Hildebrand Avenue and Highway 281 South.

"We just see it on fire and then just flip over," said Steven Garcia, the owner of Garcia Plumbing Enterprises.

Garcia was in a pickup truck with his brothers, Joe and David, and their co-worker and friend, Ralph Sanchez. As the four plumbers watched the big rig crash, Joe Garcia suggested that they should help.

"It was, like, 'Are you sure you want to stop?' I said, 'Yeah, let's stop,'" he said.

They drove near the wreckage, where the 18-wheeler lay on its side. The back quarter of its load was already engulfed in flames hot enough that the men could feel the heat outside the truck.

Steven Garcia said two women and a man who had also stopped told them the driver was still in the cab.

"The guy asked, 'Do you have a hammer?'" Steven Garcia said. "So I think Ralph got him a hammer. Joe got a hammer and David got the rock bar."

They worked to break out the window on the top of the cab as the other man tried to break the front windshield.

"It would go through and I'd try to break it," David Garcia said. "A couple of holes, and that's when my brother got the hammer and he pried the window out."

While they worked to get the driver out, the fire kept creeping toward them. 

"It's on the backside of the trailer, but it's coming toward the front of the cab, but it's coming fast. You could feel the heat," Sanchez said.

Finally, they busted through the window and found the driver alive but dazed. 

"We're yelling, 'Where you at? Where you at?' and I kind of saw him stumble up," Steven Garcia said.

"I see him in there, and I'm, like, 'Man it's going to blow! Hurry up! Get up!' He's just in there with his feet up in the air, looking at me," Joe Garcia said. "So I reach in there, and I'm trying to pull him out. I got him to the front of it, and he wouldn't do anything. He was just, like, 'Help me' or something. So my brother comes in and he grabs him and he pulls him out."

Once the driver was out, Sanchez led him to safety.

The four men haven't heard from the driver since the crash and they didn't get his name. 

But they're happy they helped.

"It's just something I hope somebody would do for me if that was the case," said David Garcia.

"That's been one of my bucket list things to do: Save somebody's life. You know, just in case. I want to go to heaven. You know, I got that free ride. I'm there. I'm already there," Joe Garcia said.

About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.