JANESVILLE, Wis. (WMTV)— A driver was seriously injured after a semi- truck burst into flames on I-39 in Rock County on Thursday evening.
Coltin Eddy, an active duty Marine, and his friend, Devin Wilcox, said they were driving home to Beloit when they saw smoke coming from the truck.
"His passenger window was open and you could see the flames coming out," Eddy said.
Wisconsin State Patrol said the crash happened on I-39/90 in the northbound lanes near mile marker 174 near Janesville around 5:30 p.m. When crews arrived on scene, they found a semi-truck with the tractor fully engulfed in flames and crashed into the ditch. The trailer was blocking the right shoulder. The driver was found outside of the unit and severely injured.
Wilcox said he saw the driver jump out from his car and the trailer run over his leg.
"We stopped next to him and got out to give him some aid. A registered nurse pulled over. She saw the same thing and pulled over and helped," Eddy said.
Wisconsin State Patrol's preliminary investigation suggests that the driver’s injury was caused by being struck by the tractor while jumping out of it while it was moving. The driver, a 27-year-old man from Davenport, Iowa, was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries. The driver was helped by nearby motorists until Janesville Fire and EMS arrived on scene.
Eddy said his training as a Marine helped prepare him for this type of situation.
"During my first deployment to Iraq, I did a lot of work on casualties, working with special forces, the Iraqi military, so it really wasn't that crazy- I have seen injuries like that before," he said.
The Janesville Fire Department extinguished the fire.
Wisconsin State Patrol said the Department of Natural Resources was called to the scene to mitigate a diesel fuel spill from the semi fuel tanks.
Wilcox said it was not just training that saved the man's life, but paying attention.
"People were lucky they didn't get killed with the truck swerving back and forth. The driver did his best to keep it under control, but you know there is people still trying to zip around him and that is probably the worst thing you can do," Wilcox said.
The right northbound lane was closed for nearly four hours as crews cleared the scene. It was cleared around 8 p.m .
The cause of the fire and the crash remain under investigation. The driver's condition is not yet known. NBC15 will continue to update this story.