A trucker has detailed the moment he saved a man from a burning truck in the NSW Southern Highlands.
Darren Cooke was driving north along the Hume Highway at Yerrinbool on February 12 at dawn when he arrived at the scene of an accident.
Two trucks had crashed and one of them, lying on its side, was on fire.
“I looked around to see if there were any ambulances and I realised I was the first one there,” Mr Cooke told Yahoo News Australia.
Mr Cooke didn’t hesitate. He pulled his truck over and ran towards the blaze.
“I had these paper thin thongs on and went to check the cab,” he said.
“All I was thinking was, will I need to cut the seatbelt to save the driver? Will I need to break the windshield?”
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Mr Cooke said his biggest fear was being unable to save whoever was in the truck.
Luckily, he found the driver crawling out from the cab. Another man, who was driving the other truck in the crash, also provided assistance.
Together, they helped the driver, aged in his 60s, to safety.
“We found one of the gates from the truck had come loose and used it as a stretcher,” Mr Cooke said.
“We carried him to my truck and called emergency services. She (the truck) was well and truly alight.
“Then – she went ‘boom’.”
The truck exploded but luckily the three men got away in time.
The two men involved in the crash were treated for lacerations to their limbs.
Road crash saviour ‘no hero’
For saving a fellow truck driver, Mr Cooke was awarded with the Australian Trucking Association’s Bridgestone Bandag Highway Guardian honour in April.
ATA chairman Geoff Crouch called Mr Cooke “selfless” for saving the man before his truck exploded.
“It is fitting for him to be named a Bridgestone Bandag Highway Guardian. His actions helped prevent the loss of a life that morning,” Mr Crouch said.
“Any time a truck is involved in an accident, it’s a serious matter, but when a truck ends up on its side and becomes engulfed in flames, it has the potential to end in tragic circumstances.
“Thankfully we have Highway Guardians such as Darren Cooke on our roads who are willing to put others ahead of themselves.”
The ATA shared news of Mr Cooke’s actions and award on Facebook, with people calling him “thoughtful and brave”.
“A driver made it home to his family because of you,” one woman wrote.
“Bless your heart.”
One man wrote, “not all superheroes have capes”.
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“Well done fellow trucker,” another man wrote.
“It proves that there are still ‘real Aussie truck drivers’ in the industry that look out for each other like brothers.”
Mr Cooke downplayed his heroics.
“I’m not a hero,” he said.
“Most blokes would do the same. It’s nice to be acknowledged and get a pat on the back though.”
The truckie said he now carries a knife and “something to break a windscreen” in case he ever finds himself needing to free someone from a car accident again.
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