By Jeff Todd
DENVER (CBS4)– The driver of the burning semi truck in the Denver Tech Center escaped from the inferno thanks to the quick thinking of some witnesses.
“All the sudden I’m looking up and here’s this truck in front of me. Makes like a 90 degree turn and hits the barrier.”
Dave Fretz was headed northbound on Interstate 25 just before noon on Wednesday. He was in the number two lane and noticed the Colorado Department of Transportation truck next to him had turned on its flashers.
PHOTO GALLERY: I-25 Tanker Fire
“When he came to a stop I could see fuel, on the road northbound. It was smoking and I there was some flames happening in the back part of it,” Fretz said. “I knew this guy was in a truck and I didn’t see him come out of the truck.”
Fretz raced to the driver’s side. The driver had escaped out of the passenger’s side of the truck after the crash and was being helped away from the fire by the two CDOT employees.
“Thank God for the CDOT guys! I keep telling everybody, those two guys were very, very brave, too,” Fretz said.
The driver was bleeding from his head and his left arm according to Fretz, but with everyone away from the smoldering truck Fretz started to piece things together before the ambulance arrived.
“I kept asking him, are you the only guy in the truck? Are you the only guy in the truck? Yes senor I am,” Fretz recalled.
Then the explosions began.
“Heard this ‘kaboom!’ I turned around and the truck, you couldn’t see the truck anymore, black, black, black smoke, the highways both north and southbound were on fire,” Fretz said. “There were probably about four or five booms after that.”
As firefighters arrived on scene Fretz continued to watch the fire burn for a few hours.
Eventually he gave a statement to Colorado State Patrol. Hours after the accident he was still thinking about the events of the day and the driver he helped rescue.
“I’m still shaken up about it. I just couldn’t believe it. I pray for the guy that was in the fire. Maybe someday I’d like to meet him,” Fretz said. ”I just think I’m doing my duty. If it wasn’t for those CDOT guys, I don’t know if I could have done anything by myself, those guys are heroes.”
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.