A truck driver on the New York State Thruway in Buffalo was seconds away from a fiery death, when he says his guardian angel suddenly arrived at the scene.
On Monday afternoon, dump truck driver Larry Coulter, who was carrying about 70,000 pounds of crushed stone, blew a tire and crashed into the guardrail. He became trapped as his cab filled up with smoke.
“Flames were licking up the side of the truck on the driver’s side,” he said. He moved over to the passenger’s side but the guard rail was twisted up against the door.
Coulter said he could hear tires exploding from the heat. He tried to kick out the windshield but he couldn’t break through.
“I started getting all weak,” he said.
Suddenly a car pulled up next to the burning truck. Ed Brunner was about 1,500 feet behind, and witnessed the crash.
“I saw the back end of the dump truck go up in the air, like it was going to flip over,” he said. “A lot of dust and smoke and then it burst into flames.”
Brunner didn’t think twice about helping, even though he recently had surgery on his shoulder.
“In my brain I said I got to break the windshield somehow,” he said. “Got to get the guy out.”
Ed picked up a small bolder-size piece of the bridge that had crumbled on impact.
“All of a sudden this big hunk of concrete came hurling at the windshield,” Coulter said. “I saw the windshield crack. And then the second one hit the windshield, and I was able to kick the windshield out then.”
Larry Coulter, who weighs 340 pounds, somehow crawled out through the windshield opening, but then had to make his way atop a narrow guard rail about 40 feel above railroad tracks. Ed Brunner was still there for him.
PHOTOS | See photos from the accident.
“And I grabbed onto him and just kept telling him you got to keep going. You can do it. You can do it. And he did,” Brunner said.
But then, when firefighters and paramedics arrived, Ed Brunner left the scene. He felt his work had been done.
Larry Coulter didn’t have a chance to thank him.
As details of the rescue became public, 8News sister station News 4 got in touch with both men Monday night. The two were united at the station less than 24 hours after the crash and rescue.
They hugged and Coulter thanked Brunner over and over again. His voice cracked on the first thank-you.
“I was ready to give up,” said Coulter. “No way to get out without your help.”
“It wasn’t our time,” Brunner said jokingly. “We’re too young!”
Brunner is 59 and Coulter is 60.
“One of the highest aspirations of the human heart is to help our fellow man,” Brunner said. “I’m glad I was there to be able to do that.”
When asked how he views his rescuer, Coulter said simply, “He’s my guardian angel.”