Glancing in his rear-view mirror, Burleson truck driver Thomas Colston saw an out-of-control pickup headed toward him.
Driving on an icy Interstate 20 near Abilene, Colston quickly steered out of the way, but the pickup crashed into a retaining wall, struck two other vehicles and landed upside down before catching fire.
Without hesitation, Colston called 911 and ran toward the burning vehicle, its driver trapped inside, screaming for help. Another motorist tossed Colston a fire extinguisher, which he used to knock down flames. Emergency workers soon arrived and extracted the driver, who survived.
For his actions on the night of Nov. 22, Colston has been named a Highway Angel by the Truckload Carriers Association, which recognizes truck drivers for their kindness, courtesy and courage while on the job.
Colston said Wednesday that his previous training as an EMT and a police officer prepared him for what to do in emergency situations. He was previously a police officer in Collegedale, Tenn.
“I was also on a rescue squad and I’ve seen a lot of these situations,” said Colston, 56, who has lived in Texas for about 16 years. He is a truck driver for Frito-Lay Inc. in Dallas.
On that night, Colston said, icy bridges and overpasses existed on much of Interstate 20 near Abilene.
“I guess the pickup driver behind me had just tapped his brakes and lost control,” Colston said.
As the pickup spun around, the vehicle hit an 18-wheeler and another truck before it ended up upside down. The drivers of the 18-wheeler and the other truck were not injured.
“I heard the driver in the overturned truck screaming for help,” Colston said, explaining that the driver was trapped inside with his leg jammed up under the dash.
Colston said the driver of the 18-wheeler had gotten a fire extinguisher from his truck and threw it to him.
“The flames were knocked down pretty quick, but we didn’t get the driver out because we didn’t know the extent of his injuries,” Colston said. “We waited for the authorities and other emergency crews to get him out.”
Colston said there wasn’t time to wait on emergency crews for the fire.
“People freeze in their footsteps when they see something happen like that,” Colston said. “But I could hear the guy screaming for help … it would have been very bad for him if we hadn’t gotten those flames out.”
TCA officials will honor Colston by presenting him a certificate, a patch and lapel pin for his service.