Bradenton man pulls injured driver from burning semi truck

- Talk about being in the right place at the right time. A Bradenton man helped rescue an injured driver after his 18-wheeler crashed and caught on fire.

It happened on Interstate 75 between Gainesville and Ocala early Sunday morning.

Caleb Bailey said when saw the truck flip over, he had to act fast because if he didn't, the driver, injured and trapped, may have burned to death.

It was dark outside, around 5 a.m. Sunday. Bailey and his father, Bob, were still about two hours from their home in Bradenton.

"I was in the middle lane," Caleb Bailey said. "I had a semi in front of me about 200 feet, and he kind of veered to the left lane, which I thought was kind of weird."

The truck veered onto the shoulder and then, into the guard rail.

"And, it's almost like he jerked right and the whole thing just flipped on its side, instantly in flames," Bailey recalled.

Without a second thought, he raced toward the burning semi.

"I could hear him screaming, he was trapped, he couldn't get out, banging," Bailey said.

He tried climbing the side of the overturned truck. That didn't work. Neither did kicking the windshield.

"My dad flagged down another semi driver," Bailey said. "He actually had a hammer. After he got the hammer, we had a big enough hole between him hitting the windshield and me kicking, we got a big enough hole to get his head out."

They grabbed the man's shoulders and dragged him away from the fire.

"And, it was probably 30 seconds, the whole entire truck was in flames," Bailey said.

The driver, identified as 44-year-old Michael Garcia, was taken to the hospital with minor injuries while first responders put out the raging flames.

"They just said man, you were in the right place at the right time," Bailey said. "If I wouldn't have stopped, he would've been gone, he would've burned to death."

Hours later, Caleb's father, who's Pastor at Happy Gospel Church, shared the experience in his sermon.

"God has a plan for your life," Pastor Bailey told the congregation. "I believe it was God's plan and divine will that we just happened to not stop for me to use the bathroom that we would be right there."

Caleb echoed his father's statement.

"Funny thing was, I needed fuel but I didn't stop for the last four exits because I was like, I want to get home," Caleb said. "Well, there is a reason I kept going and I am glad that happened."

Anyone can wind up in the right place at the right time. It's what you do next that changes everything.

"When I saw that wreck, I immediately thought about my family and how if I was put in that situation, I would really wish somebody would help me," Caleb said.

FHP said the driver of the truck, Michael Garcia, is from Miami. He was transporting food grade products at the time of the crash. He's been charged with careless driving.

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