Jeff Puckett remembers it was a cold and cloudy morning along Highway 99 in Tulare. Traffic whizzed by as he and a fellow employee at nearby Garton Tractor ran to an overturned car on the side of the road. Laurie Wood of Clovis left her house at 6:30 that morning to see her Marine son Matthew in southern California before he deployed to Afghanistan.
Laurie remembers, "I saw something in the road and I swerved to miss it, it was black. I thought it was tire tread."
In the process of swerving, Laurie overcorrected and rolled over into a ditch. The car landed on its side. Laurie says she was hanging by her seatbelt on the passenger's side when she heard a voice. "He said, 'you gotta get outta there now, you're on fire!' I'm not sure what he did, but he ended up pulling me out."
Whoever pulled Laurie from her car was long gone before emergency crews arrived, and their identity remains a mystery. So somewhere out on the highway is a trucker who's a hero. Tulare County firefighter Mat Whitendale got the call at 7:30, a pin-in with a vehicle on fire. When he arrived, the driver wasn't in the car, but the car was on fire.
Mat said, "The driver's seat and pretty much around the driver's seat was melted, and it hadn't gotten into the rest of the vehicle yet, but if she was in that seat while the fire was burning, l she would've gotten burned pretty good."
Laurie and her husband Daryl later got a close up look at the burned out car, and are in awe.
Laurie explained, "I had a canvas bag that had some books and my camera and all kinds of stuff and it was melted."
Inside the melted mess was this nearly untouched bible, given to Laurie last fall by a woman at Campus Bible Church in Fresno, the first day Laurie attended.
Laurie said, "Nobody could ever tell me that Jesus wasn't sitting next to me that day in the car."
Her husband Daryl said, "The bible alone blew me away, that's the only thing, the ONLY thing that hadn't gotten burnt! Since we've been going to church I've seen a lot of things but that right there, and seeing her, come out of that car."
Jeff Puckett took Laurie back to his office at Garton Tractor right after the accident. He let her use the phone. He got her something warm to drink, and told her he needed to leave for a few minutes.
Puckett said, "In her efforts to get out of the car, she lost her shoes, so she didn't have any shoes on, so I just went down to the store and picked up a pair of shoes for her."
Laurie exclaimed, "That was the sweetest thing that anybody ever did for me."
As for the mystery truck driver, another employee at Garton Tractor caught a brief glimpse of the cab.
John Parsons said, "He was driving - well almost all of Knight trucks are red, but he was driving a Knight transport truck. He was driving away real slow. He was "bob-tailing. He must have been behind a car and I didn't see him until he was pulling away. He didn't stay around, he got her out and left."
We contacted Knight Transportation and told them what happened. They've been trying to track down the driver so they, and Laurie Wood, can tell him thanks.
One final note to this story, Laurie didn't miss her son leaving for Afghanistan. He hurt his knee right before he was supposed to leave and won't deploy until his knee heals. Laurie isn't sure when that will happen, but hopes to see him before he leaves.NEWS BY LOCATION | ABC30 BLOGS | DISCUSSION FORUMS
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