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Off-duty Fla. deputy saves man from burning truck

The deputy unbuckled the disoriented driver's seat belt, pulled on the driver's shirt and left arm and got him out of the truck


Alexi C. Cardona
Naples Daily News, Fla.

NAPLES, Fla. — An off-duty Collier County sheriff's deputy last month saved a man from a burning tractor-trailer following a crash that could have been a scene in an action movie.

Cpl. Joshua Hankinson, a corrections deputy at the Collier County Jail, left Oct. 23 and was traveling north on Interstate 75 in Charlotte County when he drove over a raised overpass at exit 167 and saw a crash involving two semitrailers southbound at mile marker 166 around 7:15 a.m., according to a Sheriff's Office news release sent Thursday.

Hankinson pulled over and went to check on the driver of the semi with the worst damage. According to the release, Hankinson saw the driver moving around in the cab and smelled diesel fuel that was leaking from the truck.

He forced the driver door open and told the driver to get out of the cab, but the man appeared disoriented and didn't respond to the deputy's instructions, according to the Sheriff's Office.

When the deputy realized the driver may have been in shock, he unbuckled the man's seat belt, pulled on the driver's shirt and left arm and got him out of the truck, the release states.

“As I guided him to a safe distance, about 50 feet, the truck became engulfed in flames and a few loud explosions occurred,” Hankinson said in the release.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, a semi-truck with a trailer in tow was pulled over on the outside shoulder of I-75 near mile marker 167 facing south Oct. 23. The driver, Gurmit Cheema, of Port Charlotte, accelerated from the median and drove onto the outside lane of the interstate, right into the path of another semi-truck.

The driver of the second semi-truck, Collier resident Yosbani Cuesta, hit the brakes and veered into the center lane but could not avoid a crash, according to an FHP press release.

The front right side of the second truck crashed into the back left side of the truck that pulled off from the shoulder, the release states.

No one was injured in the crash, and both drivers were wearing seat belts, according to FHP. According to the Sheriff's Office, Hankinson received a few "minor abrasions" on his hands.

Hankinson described the scene as "very chaotic" and said he stepped aside when other first responders arrived.

Hankinson will be nominated for a Medal of Distinguished Service, an award that honors a Collier deputy who "distinguishes himself in the performance of an act of courage involving probable risk of personal injury for the purpose of saving or protecting human life," according to the Sheriff's Office.

“I do not feel I did anything above what any person with a heart would have done in the same situation,” Hankinson said in the release. “It was just simply, in my mind, a moment in time where I made a decision to do what is right in the world."

©2017 the Naples Daily News (Naples, Fla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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