Man pulled from burning carPublished 11:58pm Thursday, July 18, 2013
Rescuer believes 5 minutes later would have been too late
Larry Pittman of Red Level doesn’t consider himself a hero, but one can imagine the man he pulled out of a burning car Thursday night might have a different opinion.
Pittman said at about 10 p.m., he was awakened by a blaring car horn.
“It was like someone had sat down on the horn,” Pittman said. “I thought it was coming from across the four-lane, but when I went to the back door, I could tell it was just up the road.”
What Pittman was hearing was the aftermath of Thalamus Lewis’ 2013 Chevrolet Impala leaving the roadway and striking a tree on Lloyd Mill Road. As Lewis was knocked unconscious from the impact, the car caught fire.
Pittman said he jumped into his truck and soon spotted the car on fire.
“I ran down there and had to go through the passenger side,” Pittman said of the man identified by the Alabama State Troopers as a 35-year-old resident of Ft. Riley, Kansas.
“He was sitting, slumped over the steering wheel,” he said. “The air bag had deployed; it was in his lap. I was trying to get him awake, and when he came around, he thought he was in McKenzie. I said, ‘No. You were in a wreck. This car is on fire, and we need to get out of here.’”
Pittman said he was able to bodily pull Lewis from the inside of the car through the passenger side.
“I didn’t have time to be scared, but I realize now I was,” Pittman said. “The fire was so hot, that when I got him out, we stopped about 10 feet from the car. The fire was so intense, I had to move him.”
Pittman was then able to call 911, and it wasn’t long before help arrived in the form of sheriff’s deputies, a trooper, the rescue squad and members of the Buck Creek Fire Department.
“I don’t consider myself a hero,” he said. “I didn’t do anything that anyone else wouldn’t have done, but I think if I would’ve been five minutes later, the fire would have been so hot, I wouldn’t have been able to get him out.”
Pittman said he believed Lewis was traveling too fast and lost control when he attempted to navigate the curve. The car struck a tree – the same tree that is credited with Jessica Godwin’s fatal crash “a few years back.”
Lewis was transported to Andalusia Regional Hospital for treatment for what Pittman described as an injured leg.
“The speed limit signs are up,” Pittman said of the road. “But (Lewis) missed a utility pole by less than a foot. God knows what would’ve happened had he hit that too.”