MANTECA (CBS13) – Highway 99 north of Manteca was shut down in both directions for hours after a big rig crashed around 10 Tuesday morning and burst into flames, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Witnesses report the big rig was driving in the southbound lanes when it crossed over the median and slammed into the concrete supports of the Louis Avenue overpass, bursting into flames.
The impact separated the cab from the trailer and sent it flying into the other side of the freeway with the badly injured driver trapped inside.
A medical assistant who came upon the crash went into action to help him.
“I just jumped in, grabbed a towel and made sure it was cleaned off and put it over his wounds and held pressure. He almost lost consciousness with me and I was just ‘Anthony, Anthony, stay with me’,” said Sandra Gardere. “And then the tires kept exploding. And every time the tires would explode I would hide behind the door and be like ‘please don’t let it be the gas tank, because I’m keeping pressure and I’m not leaving him.”
The driver of the rig was taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital with major injuries.
Gardere told CBS13’s Neda Iranpour she jumped right into action on instinct.
“I ran through the smoke over the overpass, and just came down and started treating him. I put pressure on his wounds, asked him who the president was, does he know what state he was in,” she said.
He couldn’t answer her basic questions, a sign of major injury possibly to the driver’s head.
“He was basically in shock,” she said. “His eyes were open but glazed over. He started to lose consciousness. I kept telling him stay awake, stay with me.”
Crews spent more than six hours clearing the wreck and checking the overpass for structural safety, all the while there was a traffic nightmare on one of the state’s major thoroughfares.
The freeway was shut down in both directions after the crash that could’ve killed the driver and perhaps even the woman fighting to save him.
For Sandra, the risk made no difference. This medical assistant of 12 years now wants to get her nursing degree.
“I got to help somebody, that’s what I got for Christmas,” she said. “That was better than anything.”