Lawrence, NJ man, 4 others free driver after fiery Route 295 crash
A Delaware trip for Bob Zimmaro and his family took a dramatic turn on Friday morning when he saw a dump truck veer off Route 295 and into the median. He wound up helping the driver out just seconds before the truck cab became engulfed in flames.
"I said to my wife, 'if we would have hesitated another 15 or 20 seconds and didn't get him out he would have burned in that truck.' I don't think he realizes how close he was to that point," Zimmaro said.
State Police on Sunday afternoon said the driver, a 42-year-old man, remained hospitalized in serious condition.
The truck went off the southbound lanes Route 295 just past the exit for Route 31 and slammed into the overhead sign post on the northbound lanes. The impact of the crash about 10:15 a.m. forced the concrete base out of the ground, according to state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Judith Drucker.
Zimmaro, of Lawrence Township in Mercer County, said he saw the truck come across the median out of the corner of his eye.
"I didn't see anyone cut him off. I just saw him veer off the road and hit the one sign that was in the median. He wasn't slowing down but it kind of seemed to me that he hit that sign purposely instead of coming through the guardrail and into oncoming traffic," Zimmaro told New Jersey 101.5.
He immediately pulled over onto the right shoulder and ran across three lanes of traffic to the truck. At least four other men in their work trucks also stopped to help, according to Zimmaro.
Zimmaro said the others grabbed their fire extinguishers as the dump truck was on fire underneath the driver's seat. One of them cut the driver's seat belt off and worked with Zimmaro to free the driver's left foot. Two others tried to free him from the passengers side.
"We just did what we had to go to get that guy out of that truck. It was the right thing to do," Zimmaro said. "When you see someone hurt you should get out and help regardless.
Zimmaro said the moment they got the driver onto the grass, the truck became fully engulfed.
"With the diesel fuel and the hydraulics we went through five or six fire extinguishers, the DOT pulled up we burned through all theirs. It wasn't stopping it," Zimmaro said.
"There was no front of that truck left. The engine was in the seat. He was in there tight. He really was," he added.
Zimmaro wanted to get back to his kids in the car and left as police and first responders arrived at the crash scene.
"Everybody who stopped when it first happened just did what had to be done," Zimmaro said, adding that he was angry that some people instead of stopping drove by and took video.
"God forbid you get out of your car and try to help somebody. I don't like those kind of people," Zimmaro said.
Route 295 northbound heading for Pennsylvania was closed for several hours on Friday afternoon into the evening to remove the sign.
Dennis Symons of MidJersey.news contributed to this report