A Pike County man saved a truck driver’s life after he wrecked his tractor trailer into the woods near the Flint River bridge on Highway 362 and the cab caught on fire. According to Cpl. D. Stewart of Georgia State Patrol Post 34, the driver was Decota Thomas, 25, of Griffin. Cpl. Stewart said the wreck caused lacerations to his face, a bloody nose and an injured shoulder after his truck left the roadway, hit several trees, buckled the vehicle’s frame and punctured the fuel tank – but he was lucky to be alive.
“After the truck rammed into the woods, the trees caught the cab and rolled the tractor trailer on its left side and at some point, the diesel tanks were punctured and came in contact with the heat from the engine compartment,” said Cpl. Stewart. “The driver was entrapped by his seat belt.”That’s when 76-year-old Thomas Proctor of Williamson stepped in. According to his wife Marlene Proctor, when they arrived at the scene of the wreck, others had gathered around the truck’s cab and the driver was shouting for help as the fire crept toward him.
Her husband gave the driver a knife to cut the seatbelt that was holding him in but he was unable to cut the safety belt free.
“When we arrived, the truck had started blazing and smoking and I didn’t know if my husband was going to be blown to bits, but I was yelling, ‘You’ve got to save him, you’ve got to save him.’ It was frightening. He was screaming for his life,” she said. “My husband went into the truck and cut the seatbelt off him and drug him out of the window.”
Cpl. Stewart said it appeared the driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel, especially since he did not remember how the wreck occurred and there were no indications that he applied the brakes at all before hitting the trees. He said there were also no indications of mechanical malfunctions that would have led to the wreck. Cpl. Stewart said he has no doubts that Proctor saved the young man’s life.
“The entire cab was engulfed in flames; it burnt everything in the cab and even melted the engine components,” he said. “Mr. Proctor was a genuine hero. If it hadn’t been for him stepping in and helping out, it would have been a tragic wreck.”
Marlene Proctor said she is always prepared with supplies and since they were returning from a test run to Roanoke, Alabama to find the best route to carry cattle to a sale yard there, she had blankets in their vehicle.
“We put blankets around him to try to keep him from going into shock and stayed with him to try to keep him awake and alert,” she said. “My husband will be 77 on his birthday in June, but he is still very strong and very active and he works hard all the time. When his girls found out what he did, they were really proud of him. He got some burns on his hands and he is keeping antibiotics on them but when it comes to saving a life, of course most anybody is going to do what they have to.”
SPECIAL THANKS TO THE PIKE JOURNAL REPORTER AND WALTER GEIGER FOR THEIR ASSISTANCE IN THIS NEWS STORY. WHAT A PLEASURE TO REPORT ON A LOCAL HERO. THANKS VERY MUCH. BILL TAYLOR WKEU FM THE ROCK.