Westport man credited with saving driver from fiery crash

Jesse Gomes

A passer-by was credited with rescuing the driver of a tanker truck that rolled over and caught fire Monday.

Jesse Gomes, of Westport, Mass., was heading to his business partner's house in Fall River at 7:15 a.m. when he thought he was seeing things by the side of the road.

"I saw the flames, but didn't know if anyone in there was alive," he said.

Gomes said he could barely believe his eyes as he exited off Route 24 while on his way to install windows at a customer's home.

"I'm never really in that area at that time of day, but I didn't have to drive my son to school or anything, so I was headed directly to my partner's house. So I happened to take the exit and saw a line of flames. I didn't know what it was, drove up a little more, got up a little closer, and realized it was a truck that was rolled over down the embankment, and I stopped about 10 feet away from the truck and jumped out to see if I could help," he said.

Seemingly not worried about his own safety, Gomes ran toward the fiery mess to see if the driver was still alive, and needing assistance.

"And I walked over to the truck and we were just screaming to see if there was anybody in there alive, and to see what was going on, and then a few seconds later we saw somebody moving inside the cab. I ran over to the truck a little closer and I saw that it was a woman, asked her what was in the tanker, she screamed out, 'Gas!' and next thing I know I just ran to the truck, she was trying to get herself out, just grabbed her and pulled her up," he said.

Gomes said he was well aware of the dangerous load the entire time he was working to get the driver out of the wreckage. He said he knew the truck could explode any minute.

"The flames were getting closer and closer to the cab, and just kind of reacted, got her out of there, brought her to safety, kept her warm, and tried to calm her down because she was a little emotional, and couldn't believe what happened to her. She was covered in debris and dirty," he said.

Gomes said he's amazed that the driver hadn't been stuck inside the cab of the truck by the impact of the crash itself.

"The truck was completely mangled. She was actually coming out of the windshield, so there was no door, to, I mean it was on its side, it was actually on an angle and you could see her struggling to get out," he said.

"It could have been a lot worse. I could not be standing here right now, and we both could be hurt, and not alive, but I guess the right decision was made, and everybody was safe and everybody is good and I'm talking to you people," Gomes said. "I didn't expect any of this recognition."

The driver of the tanker truck, Lisa Korch, of Danielson, Conn., received non-life threatening injuries. She is still being treated at Rhode Island Hospital.

Gomes said before Korch was taken to the hospital she gave him a heartfelt thank you for saving her life.