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Soldier displays selfless service in fiery rescue of fuel trucker

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By G. ANTHONIE RIIS

“I shouldn’t have even been there.”

A U.S. Army Human Resources Command career advisor, Sgt. 1st Class Mario King said he expected the route to be smooth that he and his wife, Sgt. Adriane King, had chosen to return home from a vacation over the Mother’s Day weekend. It wasn’t.

“We took a detour because the traffic was so bad,” said King.

They soon discovered traffic was bad everywhere, and their decision would change the course of their lives. A fuel tanker was traveling along the same stretch of road just ahead of them.

“We were a couple of cars behind when a car veered left [and] overcorrected,” King said. “When [the vehicles] collided, [one] car spun into the highway and stopped in the middle of the road and the tanker hit it. The truck rolled several times. When it stopped, it was upside down and on fire.”

Instant chaos ensued.

“I ran to the first person I saw,” King said. “The driver of the car was standing in the middle of the road, dazed and confused. Two other men headed for the truck. I left the man with my wife and followed them to the truck.”

King said others felt like the situation seemed hopeless. King and the men could see the driver in the burning truck, but could do nothing to free him.

“We tried to break the windows,” King said. “He was moving and trying to undo his seat belt. The fire was coming from the fuel tanks — made it very hot — and the driver started to panic. Somehow, he was able to pry open a small opening.”

King said he wasn’t sure what possessed him to do what he did next.

“I can’t put my finger
on why I did what I did.
I really wasn’t thinking,” King said. “I just saw an opportunity to help the
guy. If I’d taken time to think, the situation might have been different.”

King realized the driver’s foot and leg were trapped and that he couldn’t free himself.

“Without regard for his own safety, [King] climbed into a smoke filled and burning vehicle and helped our driver extricate his foot and leg,” wrote David Edmondson, safety director for Usher Transport, Inc., in a press release.

King credits his quick and selfless action to his military training and the examples he saw when attached with a medical unit while deployed.

“I worked as an information support specialist with the 47th Combat Support Hospital while downrange,” he said. “Every person in that unit had to be [Combat Life Saver] qualified. We trained on reaction time and lifesaving skills. It definitely helped.”

Edmondson, a former Marine, said in a phone interview that King’s courage was dyed-in-the-wool.

“He is the epitome of what serving our nation is about. He’s not a ground pounder; he’s not a grunt, but that training is just in him,” said Edmondson. “We are so grateful for whatever higher power put him there at that time.”

According to Edmondson, the driver suffered some broken ribs and a punctured lung, but otherwise is in good spirits and grateful to be alive, all because of King.

“We are very appreciative, and forever in his debt for doing what he did,” said Edmondson. “To go into a burning truck and pull our guy out, that’s not something the typical person would do.”