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While Others Stared At Wreck, Tow Truck Driver Saved Lives

July 27, 1995

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) _ With survivors trapped in the freshly mangled metal and billowing smoke of a deadly turnpike crash, other motorists waited for it to explode. Tow truck driver Glenn Smith saved lives.

``Everybody was standing back, because they figured it was going to blow,″ Smith said. ``They said. `There’s people in there! There’s people in there!‴

``Well, I said, `Get `em out!‴

Tuesday’s accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike killed a baby girl on impact when the van she was in slammed into a runaway tractor-trailer. The child’s parents, her brother and sister were pinned inside the wreckage, the doors of the van jammed shut.

Smith acted quickly, connecting a chain from his tow truck to the wrecked van and pulling it out just before the trailer-trailer exploded in a fireball.

``Flames were everywhere,″ Smith said. ``As I was backing up, it just kept coming after us.″

When the smoke finally cleared, troopers credited Smith with saving four lives.

Although 14-month-old Casia Denise Lemons died, her father, Lyle Lemons, 30, of Oklahoma City; his wife, Debra, 35; and their 8-year-old son, Brandon, were admitted to the hospital in fair condition. The other child, Alicia, 5, was not injured.

``A miracle,″ said Trooper Joseph D. Ruggeri. ``It probably would have been a whole lot worse if he wasn’t around.″

Authorities said the accident began when a tractor-trailer traveling west with a load of bananas flipped over a guardrail into the oncoming lanes. The van and a car ran into the trailer.

The driver of the car was not seriously hurt and managed to escape on his own. The tractor-trailer driver also managed to get out of the wreckage before the explosion. He suffered minor injuries and was hospitalized in good condition.

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