Professor, volunteer firefighter saves man from fiery crash

Published: Jun. 11, 2014 at 12:42 PM EDT
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Richard Wetzel.
Richard Wetzel.
The semi truck engulfed in flames.
The semi truck engulfed in flames.

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) - Being in the right place at the right time.
That's what happened to a volunteer with a Dayton-area fire department during a fiery accident on Interstate 75 Monday in Butler County.
Scott Howard, 50, lost control of his truck near the Liberty Way exit of the highway. The truck flipped over the median and hit four other vehicles. The truck eventually burst into flames, and shut down the road for hours.
"I feel blessed that I was at the right place, right time," said Richard Wetzel, who has a background as a volunteer emergency worker.
Wetzel was on his way back from teaching summer courses at Miami University's Hamilton campus on Monday.  He merged onto the roadway behind a semi-truck.  That truck lost control and slammed into the median.

Wetzel saw it all.

"As it started going over the median, it pulled the cab on its side.  That's when their gas tanks, or their fuel tanks, diesel fuel, started hitting the ground, slid, ignited," Wetzel said.

He pulled over and instincts kicked in as the cab of the truck filled up with smoke, and flames took over.

"The passenger side door started to wiggle a lot.  I knew that the person was attempting to get out.  I was able to get the door open enough, get the person out," Wetzel said.

That person was Scott Howard of Dayton.

Wetzel says he helped him climb out, and get safely away from the flame-covered wreckage before he gave him a quick check-up for injuries.

"I kept constant eye-to-eye contact with Scott to let him know I was there, was listening to him, was talking directly to him, trying to make sure that he felt and secure in what was going on," Wetzel told FOX19.

His actions can be labeled as heroic.  But, don't tell him that.  To him, it's just part of the job, and the training he's had in his lifetime. 
FOX19 asked Wetzel, "Do you consider yourself a hero?"
"Absolutely not.  No.  I do what everybody else would have done in a similar situation, and that is care for our fellow human beings," he replied.
Wetzel says two other truck drivers helped stop traffic with their trucks.  While Wetzel checked on another driver involved, those two stayed with Howard, says Wetzel.
Howard was taken to Atrium Medical Center with minor injuries.

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