good samaritan truck fire

The Reporter has identified the two other Good Samaritans who pulled a trucker from his upside down burning rig just before it exploded on Hwy. 42 on Jan. 18.

Junior Johnston of High Falls and John Newsome of Watkinsville both came upon the wreck around 7:30 p.m. the night of Jan. 18. This newspaper had already reported that Lucas Bivens, 21, of High Falls was one of the three men who pulled the driver,  Larry Whitehead, 37, of Warner Robins, out of the cab. But Bivens didn’t know the names of the two men who helped. But now the Reporter has learned their identifies. 

Johnston, who owns a trucking business in High Falls, said he was heading north on his way back from picking up a log trailer when he saw vehicles in the road and assumed someone must’ve hit a deer. Johnston pulled up and saw Bivens and asked if he was OK. Bivens said he wasn’t the driver, but said the driver isn’t moving and may be dead. 

Seeing a small fire had begun in the truck, Johnston said they needed to get him out. They went to the upside down rig and saw the driver’s dreadlocks through the back window. They started hollering at the driver trying to rouse him, said Johnston. Finally, the driver started to move a little bit, telling them he’s alive. 

Meanwhile, John Newsome of Watkinsville had come upon the wreck from the other direction, as he was heading south on his way to Americus for a construction job. 

Newsome saw the rig upside down and caved in and wasn’t optimistic.

“I thought what we were gonna find wasn’t gonna be good,” said Newsome. Johnston said he figured if the driver was dead, they could at least get his body out so the family would have something to bury before any fire erupted. But then, as he, Johnston and Bivens approached the rig, they noticed the driver was starting to move around and they began trying to pull him out. 

As they pulled Whitehead toward the shattered back window, Johnston said the driver’s legs got tangled in the hydraulic hoses and they had to pause. Finally they untangled him from the hoses, and the three man carried the driver to Bevins’ pickup truck as diesel fuel continued to leak from the truck.

Newsome said no sooner had they gotten Whitehead across the street than the whole rig went up in flames. Newsome said it would’ve been bad if three men hadn’t happened upon the rig at just the right time.

Johnston noted that everything he attempted that day had gone wrong which was the only reason he wound up coming upon the wreck that night at 7 p.m.

“I’m just glad we were at the right place at right time,” said Johnston. “If there wasn’t three of us we couldn’t have gotten him out. Everybody is so scared to get involved these days, but I’m glad we did.”