Heroes: tow truck driver and A&M professor credited with rescuing crash victims

The two were among a group of people, including law enforcement officers, who rescued two people from burning vehicles on Highway 6 in College Station.
Raymond Charanza & John Haglund
Raymond Charanza & John Haglund(KBTX)
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 9:39 PM CST
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) -Days after a fiery crash claimed one person’s life and injured several others, we are learning more about the heroes who emerged to help prevent an already tragic situation from worsening.

A College Station police officer, a tow truck driver who is also a volunteer firefighter, and a Texas A&M University professor all risked their lives early Sunday morning by freeing two people trapped inside burning vehicles.

The crash happened on Highway 6 in College Station when an SUV collided with a shuttle bus transporting passengers from Santa’s Wonderland to Post Oak Mall. The impact resulted in both vehicles catching on fire.

For several days after the accident, some of the identities of the bystanders who helped rescue the bus driver and the passenger of the SUV remained a mystery.

KBTX learned and verified throughout the week that one of those heroes is Texas A&M University professor and mechanical engineer John Haglund, who was among the first on the scene following the wreck and wasted no time jumping in to help out.

Haglund was traveling behind the bus when the collision occurred and he stopped immediately to help the injured bus driver and Rudder High School coach Calvin Hill. Haglund said in a statement to KBTX that he attempted three times to free Hill from the bus but was unsuccessful until a police officer arrived on the scene and pulled Hill out. The heat from the fire caused resulted in Haglund receiving 2nd & 3rd-degree burns to his face, neck & arms. He was also treated at Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston at the burn center where Hill is also being treated for his burns.

“He was able to speak with some of the coach’s family today, as his room was only a few doors down from John’s room, and it was very emotional,” Haglund’s sister tells KBTX in a statement. “His greatest concern is for the well-being of the bus driver & his family. His injuries aren’t anywhere near what Coach Hill is dealing with. We do not need anything, just prayers & good wishes.”

Haglund was released on Wednesday.

Raymond Charanza, a tow truck driver and volunteer firefighter with Brazos County ESD #2, was another good samaritan who saw the crash and jumped into action.

Charanza says he came across the chaotic scene on the highway after missing his exit, which may have been fate and a blessing.

Charanza says once he saw the flames, he put his training as a firefighter into action.

“When we rolled up on the vehicles on fire and realized that, we immediately stopped, jumped out, and rushed over to assist the citizens that were already there when I encountered a young lady in a vehicle screaming that she needed help to get out,” said Charanza.

The woman he helped rescue was Chernetris Machon McGinty, of Navasota. McGinty was the passenger of an SUV driven by her boyfriend Anthony Dewayne Johnson who died at the scene.

“I found a way into the vehicle and was able to unbuckle her and pull her out of the vehicle safely. Unfortunately, when I was able to get back to get to Mr. Johnson he had already succumbed to his injuries and there was nowhere, or way for me to actually get him out,” said Charanza.

The soft-spoken Charanza says the teamwork from law enforcement, first responders, and other bystanders Sunday is just one of the many things that make the Brazos Valley a great place to work, live and raise a family.

“I cannot take full credit for any of it because it took all of us in the community,” said Charanza. “We all joined together to help these folks in their time of need and hopefully you know change these people’s lives for the better, show that the community is strong and we’re here for each other.”

Two Texas A&M students who were also on the bus when the collision happened were able to escape with only minor injuries.

College Station police say the cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Updates from police this week did not identify the officers and Brazos County deputy who also assisted in the rescues.

“This is a tragic situation for everyone involved and we want to express our deepest sympathy to the families affected. We also want to publicly thank all of the citizens that put themselves in harm’s way that attempted to pull Mr. Hill out of the bus and the wrecker driver for saving the life of Miss McGinty,” said College Station Public Information Officer David Simmons.

At the time of this report, both McGinty and Hill remain in a hospital recovering from their injuries. Click here to learn more about fundraisers for the victims and their families.