Injured truck driver rescued from fiery I-85 wreck
by Wes Mayer
A man was injured and pulled to safety following a fiery accident involving two tractor-trailers on I-85 southbound in Coweta County late Tuesday, and the interstate was closed for more than five hours.
Emergency personnel responded to the accident on I-85 at the 44 mile-marker south of Newnan around 11:31 p.m., said Assistant Chief Mitch Coggin with the Coweta County Fire Department. When they arrived, they found two tractor-trailers heavily damaged, and one was on its side engulfed in flames.
With the help of passers-by, the driver of the burning truck was not fatally injured in the accident. Brent Lowery, owner of the Sharpsburg location of H.J. Wings & Things, was the first responder to the accident, and he helped the injured driver get out of the cab and away from the fire.
Lowery said he was on his way home to Moreland when he saw the accident take place ahead of him. He stopped his car, got out his flashlight, ran toward the two tractor-trailers, and found the driver of the tipped-over vehicle lying on top of the windshield.
“I’m just glad I was there at the right time,” Lowery said.
Lowery said when the accident occurred, it appeared as though one tractor-trailer was pulling off the road when the second truck came from behind and rear-ended it. After the collision, the second truck continued traveling around and in front of the first, collided with the guardrail on the right side of the highway. It then flipped off the road to land on its passenger side.
The truck then caught on fire, which was small at first, Lowery said. As he approached, he checked on the driver of the first tractor-trailer and found he was uninjured. This was good, Lowery said, because the truck driver had a fire extinguisher in the cab they used to fight the flames in the tipped-over truck.
Lowery, the first truck driver and, shortly after, a few others ran to the aid of the other driver, who was injured, and moved him away as the first driver then fought the flames with the extinguisher. While this didn’t put out the fire, Lowery said it gave him time to move away the injured driver. As soon as the injured driver and the rescuers were a safe distance away from the truck, it burst into flames.
“It was one of those things you just feel like you got to do when it presents itself,” Lowery said. “It was one of those fight-or-flight type deals.”
The driver was beat up pretty badly, Lowery said. And when he first found him, he appeared to be having seizures. Emergency medical units later told Lowery that the driver was responsive in transit to the hospital. When the rescuers were moving the driver away, he said, “Please call my wife,” according to Lowery.
According to Coggin, the driver was transported to Atlanta Medical Center by helicopter. The tipped-over transfer truck was transporting a load of paper, so the fire spread quickly and firefighters had to remain on scene until 4 a.m. The interstate was still closed after firefighters left the scene, but reopened shortly thereafter. A recovery company was able to upright the vehicle.
Traffic was rerouted through Newnan at Exit 47/Bullsboro Drive to Exit 41/U.S. 29 near Moreland while the interstate was closed. Personnel with the county fire department, the sheriff’s office, the Georgia State Patrol, Highway Emergency Response Operators and Rhino Services responded to the scene. According to authorities with the Georgia State Patrol, the accident is still under investigation and charges are pending.