By Roda Grubb
On Sept. 18, 2008, Edward Salinas, warehouse manager at Hi Tech Irrigation, and two of Hi Tech’s welders, Lupe Rodriguez and Enrique Martinez, were back in the warehouse when they heard the racing cars speeding along the road.
Never seeing, only hearing the sounds, next came the screech of brakes and that sound — the crunching of metal as vehicles rolled over and over and over and over. Racing out the door they saw the accident in the front yard of Hi Tech; one of the vehicles had plowed down their chain link fence coming to rest across the top with the other vehicle behind it.
“I told my dad afterwards that I didn’t see it but I heard the same sound as the tumbling of vehicles we had seen in an accident a year ago,” said Martinez. “This was horrible and sounded really, really bad.”
From his point of view, Duane Williamson, a Winter Texan from Trophy Gardens RV Resort, Alamo, the driver of the hit vehicle, recalls the event.
“We were on the frontage road between Stewart and Caesar Chavez in the middle lane doing probably 35 mph. The first thing I knew I saw a black Mustang. I looked out the driver’s window and there was a black Mustang sliding sideways past me,” said Williamson. “I thought, ‘What in the world?’ The next thing I remember I came to and had a tire wedged under my chin. I couldn’t breathe. I could look down and see the tread of the tire and see a little bit of blue sky but I couldn’t breathe and I knew I was dead.”
Martinez and his friends immediately assessed the situation. It was obvious who was in dire need of help.
“A man was trapped outside and underneath the vehicle under the back rear tire. Apparently the crash had thrown him out of the vehicle and landed on top of him. A lady was inside the vehicle,” Martinez said. “The vehicle was laying on its’ side with the whole weight of it on his chest and pushing against his throat. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t do anything. It was a gruesome sight.”
The other vehicle looked as if it had rolled also. Ironically, the driver of the Mustang — a man with a suspended driver’s license and no insurance, the instigator of the accident by his illegal drag racing - was walking around with no injuries. His passenger, his father, was also badly hurt.
“We concentrated on the couple in the first vehicle because they were the ones who looked the worst,” said Salinas.
With the help of two other bystanders, the five were able to tilt the vehicle a little bit and drag Duane out from under, getting the vehicle off of him.
“He was alive and in a lot of pain,” Salinas said. “When we started pulling him out, we all panicked a little because he had a large puncture wound in his side, about two inches wide. You could tell one of his ribs had gone through his skin, though there was nothing visible except the hole.”
With Williamson’s wife, Wanda, still trapped inside they couldn’t totally right the vehicle. Paramedics and the police arrived and helped extricate his wife from the car.
Afraid the car would blow up, they were more concerned with the older couple’s safety and trying to rescue them. Putting the risk to their lives aside, they continued until all were safely away from the bent and twisted vehicles.
A great surprise came some months after the accident.
“The Williamsons came by to visit us. They didn’t really know who had helped them but they had heard it was someone at Hi Tech so they had come to meet us,” Salinas said. “It was awesome when we saw them. I told them we were glad they survived because they had looked really bad the day of the accident. I said, ‘God’s got something in mind for you. You’re a fighter, a survivor.”
It was a great reunion between rescuers and rescued, a feeling of happiness all the way around.
Called heroes, Salinas shakes his head.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “Any human being would have done it. The other guys feel the same way — Lupe and Enrique. We’d do it again. We were just trying to help. That’s all.”