Man recounts rescue from burning truck

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Joseph Banks remembers driving on Interstate 20 early Saturday and everything being fine. The next thing he remembers is his Ford F-350 flying across the grass, hitting the guardrail “and just eating it up.”

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This Ford F350, driven by Joseph Banks, of Dallas, Ga., ran into a guardrail in Columbia County early Saturday and burst into flames. Click the headline below to see more photos.  SPECIAL
This Ford F350, driven by Joseph Banks, of Dallas, Ga., ran into a guardrail in Columbia County early Saturday and burst into flames. Click the headline below to see more photos.

Within three seconds, his truck burst into flames.

He was trapped between his seat and the dashboard, which had been crushed by the concrete “weigh station” sign the truck hit near mile marker 187.

“The fire was right outside the driver’s side window,” Banks said. “Within seconds, it was up through the floorboards. My legs were getting really warm.”

Banks remembers cars stopping, but the people stayed back. He understood why – his truck was on fire.

The seat belt had him pinned and he screamed for a knife. No one had one.

Then he heard sirens.

“They were so quick,” he said. “The response time was crazy fast.”

The Dallas, Ga., resident saw Georgia State Trooper 1st Class Matthew MacDonald and two Co­lum­bia County sheriff’s deputies, Bobby Atma and Wes Ward, rush to him.

“With complete disregard for their own safety,” Banks said. “All they were worried about was getting me out.”

MacDonald had a knife and cut Banks’ seat belt off.

“I immediately felt better,” he said.

One of the officers stood on something – Banks is not sure what – and got enough leverage to pull Banks through the window. Meanwhile, Columbia County firefighters were using hand-held fire extinguishers to keep the flames at bay.

Once out, the three men pulled him to safety. He did not bother to look back at his demolished truck.

“Every muscle in my body just collapsed,” he said. “I told them, ‘You will have to get me.’ They did.”

Banks had been awake for close to 24 hours before his accident. His job as a electrical superintendent keeps him on the road. He said he always pulls over when he feels like he is too tired.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I’d like to say my habits will change, but there is no way of knowing. It’s my job.”

Banks was at Medical College of Georgia Hospital’s intensive care unit until Sunday afternoon and said he has another surgery scheduled for Monday. He has been told the second-degree burns on his legs are manageable but that his broken pelvis will take about three months to heal.

Banks has asked for information about the officers who helped save his life so he can thank them.

“I feel lucky,” he said. “It could have been so much worse. We should thank these people every day.”

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HighSociety 06/24/12 - 11:00 pm
What an awsome story! Very

What an awsome story! Very rarely do will get to see the good things that these officers do on a daily bases. Great job!

coolette 06/24/12 - 11:19 pm
The Columbia county officers

The Columbia county officers are excellent!! They are fast, professional and represent the community so well!! The community is truly blessed to have such an outstanding sheriff Department. I hope this gentleman has a quick recovery!! What a blessing to have been in Columbia County when this happened because I have lived in three states and have never seen a sheriff department like Columbia county!! They are without a doubt the BEST!!!

Craig Spinks
Craig Spinks 06/25/12 - 01:07 am

to these brave public servants.*

* Do you remember "the good ole days" when elected officials were public servants, not Demo and GOP politicians?

beboisme 06/25/12 - 08:39 am
So now that thanks have been

So now that thanks have been given to those who pulled Mr.Banks to safety, let's gracefully give Thanks to God above who put wings on their feet and strength in their bodies to "physically" save Mr.Banks. When you consider the timing of their arrival, the immidiate evaluation of the incident and just the fact that the truck did not blow up and burn Mr.Banks alive I'd say it was a supernatural event that only God and His host of Heavenly Angels could perform. Mr.Banks give God the credit and the glory for your life. Now I'd like to bow my head and pray to God through His Son Jesus that your recovery from a broken pelvis be quick and without severe pain, and if you haven't as yet, be saved "spiritually" and come to the Cross and learn of Jesus and His wonderful love for you. The fear and pain while you were in the truck is small compared to what Jesus received while on the Cross for us. Again I ask these things in the name of Jesus, our only Saving Grace.

boodroe 06/25/12 - 11:52 am
He is lucky to be alive

He is lucky to be alive. He fell asleep for being up 24 hours straight shows tired driving is impaired driving and should be avoided lucky for him he hit a guardrail and not another vehicle or a person

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