— By CHRISTIN COYNE
If not for one passerby who pulled him from his burning truck earlier this month, Elias Uribe doesn’t believe he would have returned home to his three children.
On Jan. 9, the Peaster-area resident woke up around 2:20 a.m., packed a lunch, kissed his three young children goodbye, said his daily morning prayer and headed out the door around 3 a.m. to pick up a load of pipe in Lone Star, Texas.
Just as Uribe was arriving in Dallas on Interstate 30 on the dark, rainy morning, he lost control of his 18-wheeler.
“I guess I hit a stream of water,” Uribe said.
Uribe, who owns his own transport company and has been driving a truck off and on since he was 14 years old in Mexico, attempted to straighten out the jack-knifing trailer but ended up taking out a guardrail along the highway, going down a hill and slamming into a concrete wall.
It seemed to happen very slowly but he couldn’t stop what was happening and realized he was going to hit the wall, Uribe said, adding that it was like a nightmare.
Terry Sims, who was on her way to work at a Dallas post office, doesn’t know how long after the wreck she arrived but said she saw the truck blocking traffic and vehicles driving around the accident.
A law enforcement officer was directing traffic across the freeway, she said.
“Something just stopped me and I looked over,” Sims said.
That’s when she saw flames near the bottom of the truck and reached for her phone to call 911.
But when she looked back, saw the driver in the vehicle moving around and the flames shooting up the passenger side of the cab, she realized she didn’t have time, Sims said.
She jumped out of her own vehicle and briefly hesitated, concerned that the truck was going to blow up, before taking off running to help the driver.
The vehicle door wouldn’t open but the window was down, Sims said.
As he slowly regained consciousness, he became aware of the low-pressure alarm going off but couldn’t see anything, Uribe said.
“There was a lady right to my left, screaming that the truck was on fire,” Uribe said.
The fire was inches from his right elbow, according Uribe.
He managed to shut off the ignition and began to hear her voice more clearly but his arm and ribs were in pain.
He said he told her that he needed help, that he couldn’t move, Uribe said.
She told him that she couldn’t go any closer, that the truck was going to blow, Uribe said.
As she stood on the running board of the cab, Sims said Uribe put his hand out the window and she could tell he was hurt.
“I told him, ‘You’ve got to come now. You’re going to have to come through the window,’” Sims said.
He was moving very slowly and finally managed to work his way half way out the window, Sims said.
She told him to just let go and she would catch him, Sims said.
She ended up dragging him out of the window, apologizing as she did so, concerned about his injuries, Sims said.
Within minutes after the two stumbled away from the truck together, the cab was engulfed in flames.
“I think that if he would been in there 30 more seconds he would have burned,” Sims said.
His truck was gone in the blink of eye, Uribe said, who said he thinks he would have been burned without the help of Sims in his semi-conscious state and would likely have panicked and been unable to get out in time.
“I probably would have died there,” Uribe said.
Uribe’s wife and the children’s mother died in a wreck in May near the family’s home.
Since his wife’s death, the Peaster community, North Main Church of Christ and the entire community around Weatherford has stepped up to assist and support the family.
But Uribe believes his children would have been left parentless if not for Sims.
“Thank God that somebody stopped,” Uribe said. “They said there was cars passing by but no one stopped [except for Sims].”
“She was my angel,” Uribe said.
As they waited for paramedics, Sims sheltered Uribe in her car, checked him for any visible injuries and called his family for him.
Uribe was transported to the hospital but had very minor injuries, such as a few scratches and bruising to his ribs.
Sims said she doesn’t typically pay attention to wrecks on the freeway and doesn’t know why she slowed down and looked over.
“It was just God,” Sims said. “It’s the only way I can explain the whole situation.”
She’s never had any kind of emergency training, such as CPR, or been in a similar situation but a friend’s previous reminders to stay calm and not panic and the prayer she prayed before she reached the truck helped her stay calm, according to Sims.
“I just hope anyone would help another human being,” Sims said, who said she gained a friend from the incident.
Friday night, Sims met Uribe in person for the first time since the wreck, though they’ve talked several times on the phone since the incident.
Uribe’s children, 8-year-old Eliazar, 10-year-old Elizabeth and 12-year-old Elias Jr., read Sims letters they wrote to thank her.
“Thank you for your bravery and your love for others,” Elizabeth wrote, thanking Sims for pulling her father from his truck.