ST. CHARLES COUNTY — Ben Craven videotaped from about 200 yards away Wednesday as two passing motorists raced to rescue a trucker from a fiery wreck on Highway 370 in St. Charles County.
Flames burned the highway around the truck and the driver was pulled to safety before the cab of the truck was engulfed.
The trucker, Curtis M. Vancleave, 46, of Indianapolis, was treated at Barnes-Jewish Hospital St. Peters for minor injuries, the Missouri Highway Patrol said. Vancleave’s tractor-trailer had slammed into the median and overturned about 7:20 a.m. Wednesday on Highway 370 near Elm Street.
Craven had just left a gas station nearby and saw “a massive mushroom cloud” in the sky, which he reasoned must have been from the first fuel tank to burst on the truck. Craven grabbed the new phone he got for Christmas and began videotaping the scene in the distance from the parking lot of his business, Craven Performance.
“What was unfolding in front of me was knocking my socks off,” he said. “The highway is on fire and all of the fuel that spilled rolled all of the way across eastbound lanes and into the grass.”
Off to the left, Craven spotted a trucker running toward the fire. Another passerby already was at the cab of the truck, trying to kick in the windshield to get to the driver.
“This guy who stopped his tractor-trailer on the highway, he full blown sprinted like a football field into that fiery situation,” Craven said.
After they pulled him out, the two rescuers walked with him, patting him on the back, and got a safe distance away from the flames.
The highway patrol’s short summary of the crash doesn’t mention the rescue and Cpl. Juston Wheetley said troopers would only include the names of the men in the report if they had witnessed the crash itself.
Vancleave was out of the hospital and could not be reached Thursday. Craven said he would like to meet the rescuers. “I would love to shake their hands,” he said.
Craven, 32, of St. Peters, is the father of four children and says he has a hard time watching the news these days. But what he witnessed Wednesday gave him hope, he said.
“That was the most courageous, awesome show, in today’s climate,” Craven said. “Nothing even remotely hindered those guys.”