Good Samaritan recognized by CHP for bravery

Good Samaritan recognized by CHP for bravery »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Imagine driving down Interstate 5 and seeing a semitruck burst into flames, with the driver still inside. What would you do?

One man jumped into action, making sure the driver made it out alive. That man is now receiving high honors from the California Highway Patrol.

The accident happened back on June 18, when a section of the interstate was reduced to one lane during construction. The driver of a big rig slammed into the back of another semi, resulting in a fiery wreck. The CHP said it would have been a fatal accident had it not been for one Good Samaritan.

"He didn't know the guy one bit, he just went in and did what was right and saved the guys life," said Officer Terry Roberts when asked about the Good Samaritan, Justin Sarnoski.

Sarnoski said he was driving on I-5 when he saw the crash. He recalled seeing the fuel tank split and burst into flames. Sarnoski pulled over, jumped out of his car and went to help the driver but realized he couldn't get passed the flames to the man trapped inside.

"He had tried to get out and the flames had jumped into the cab. He was pretty much head to toe on fire and hanging from the seat belt in the cab," said Sarnoski, remembering that night.

Sarnoski didn't have a fire extinguisher, so he flagged down cars on the highway to find someone who did. The driver eventually broke free of the seat belt and fell out of the cab. By then, Sarnoski had gotten a fire extinguisher and started putting out the flames that covered the driver. But the fire kept burning.

"When he ran out of fire extinguisher, he had the guy roll over in dirt and pulled him away from the flames to further protect him," explained Officer Roberts.

Less than a month after the crash, Sarnoski stood in front of the Buttonwillow CHP station, being honored for his bravery. He doesn't see himself as a hero, just someone who did the right thing.

"It is normal people that are the first ones on the scene and they can make a difference," said Sarnoski.

The officer agreed.

"From what I understand, there were several people just standing around watching while he was jumping to this guy’s aid," Roberts said.

With burns over 80 percent of his body, it's likely that the driver would have died if it weren't for Sarnoski’s quick action. In fact, that driver not only survived but was released from the hospital last week.