SYRACUSE, N.Y. – A soldier said he did not hesitate to run into a burning tour bus several times to help rescue passengers from the vehicle after it collided with a tractor-trailer on a New York highway and burst into flames, killing one person and injuring 30 others.
Army Sgt. Jacob Perkins told The Syracuse Post-Standard on Saturday the he "didn't really think about it" and just "ran in there."
"It was just a big fireball of a crash," he said. "There were two vehicles burning on the side of the road and people were outside, but there weren't any first responders there."
Perkins, 28, is stationed at Fort Drum in the First Squadron 89th Calvary Regiment. He had begun leave only 90 minutes earlier Friday and was heading home to Missouri when he saw the vehicles engulfed in flames on the side of the New York State Thruway, between Syracuse and Rochester.
A Farr's Coach Lines bus being driven from Ontario to New York City with employees of a Canadian insurance company and their families was merging onto the highway when it was struck from behind by a Flint, Mich.-based Matrix Expedited Services truck driven by Timothy Hume. Hume died in the crash and 30 of the bus's 52 people were injured — two seriously.
After pulling over his truck, Perkins told the newspaper he started helping people off the bus.
"I pushed back farther into the bus to start checking the seats to make sure there was nobody in there," Perkins said. "It was on fire. It wasn't burning me or nothing. There was fire and smoke. When it got overwhelming, I just got off the bus."
Perkins, reached by the newspaper on his cell phone, said Saturday morning he was still on the road, heading back home. He said he did "what anybody would have done in that situation."
"I just happened to be there."
Information from: The Post-Standard, http://www.syracuse.com
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