DPS trooper, local man, save trucker after fiery I-35 crash

Published: Mar. 10, 2016 at 8:54 AM CST
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A Department of Public Safety trooper who witnessed a fiery 18-wheeler crash on I-35 and a Temple man who rushed to help after hearing the explosion pulled the truck driver from the burning rig.

The southbound FedEx tractor trailer slid on wet pavement at around 6:45 a.m. Thursday on the interstate near South 57th Street in Temple, crashed into concrete barriers and exploded into flames.

DPS Trooper D.L. Wilson was on his way to Austin in his cruiser and was right behind the 18-wheeler when the rig crashed and exploded, sending flames 30 feet into the air.

“When I watched the crash and explosion, I said to myself, ‘I just watched somebody die.’”

I had no idea anyone could live through that. In all my 20 years as a trooper, I've never witnessed anything like that,” he said.

His dashboard camera recorded the crash.

The Department of Public Safety said it would make the video public as soon as its legal department clears the release.

Wilson said he radioed for help, jumped out, stopped southbound traffic and then rushed to the cab, which was detached from the trailer and engulfed in flames.

He found the driver trying to crawl out from the wreckage of the cab.

"It's absolutely a miracle that anyone survived that." Wilson said.

“The driver was a big man, 265 pounds and I knew I'd have trouble pulling him out of the fire alone,” Wilson said.

“That's when I looked up and saw Robert,” he said.

The man Wilson saw was Robert Sneed, 29, who lives just blocks from the scene of the crash.

"I was sitting on my couch about to go to work when I heard the explosion. I slipped my shoes on and drove my Jeep through construction barricades up to the crash,” he said.

Sneed jumped over a concrete barrier and then helped Wilson pull the driver to safety.

The driver, Wallace Altom, 67, of Georgetown, suffered severe leg burns and three broken vertebrae.

He was taken to a burn unit in San Antonio.

Sneed says he doesn’t consider himself a hero, but Wilson says he surely is.