JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two opposing candidates for Congress stopped to help a man injured in an accident Saturday when a large moving truck collided with a tractor-trailer on northbound I-95 near Jacksonville International Airport.
Former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford and St. Johns County Commissioner Bill McClure are both running as Republicans in the Fourth Congressional District.
Rutherford said he and McClure were headed in separate vehicles from one campaign event to another event in Nassau County when a driver in a large moving truck traveling between them on I-95 appeared not to see traffic stopping in front of him and ran into the back of another truck. He said the moving truck was lodged about 10 feet inside the back of the trailer, trapping the driver.
“We immediately jumped out with what, six or seven other citizens who came up there to help,” Rutherford said. “It looked for a short time like the vehicle was actually going to catch fire, so we were up there trying to get the driver out.”
Rutherford said McClure helped pull back the metal as they tried to find ways to pull the driver out of the van. He said the driver was conscious and talked with the people trying to rescue him.
“It became very clear that he was not coming out of that truck without the Jaws of Life and fire rescue getting him out,” Rutherford said.
The driver of the front semi was not hurt and jumped out of his cab to help, McClure said.
“But the driver who ran into the back of the semi, he had cuts, was bleeding from his face and arms and we were trying to extricate him, but he kept telling us his right leg was pinned, and it was pinned underneath the engine,” McClure said. “We just couldn't extricate him from the vehicle until fire rescue arrived.”
Rutherford said the people who stopped to help tried several different ways to get the driver out. He said they found a snatch rope inside the truck and wove it through the door handle, but it pulled the handle off.
“So then I looped it through the door itself and hooked it up to the trailer hitch on my vehicle, and tried to pull it off with my vehicle, and it just popped off,” Rutherford said. “There was no way to get that door off, and it literally took rescue 30 minutes after they arrived with Jaws of Life and saws to extricate him from that vehicle.”
McClure said both he and Rutherford set politics aside to perform a service for someone in need.
“We may have differences about politics, but when it comes to saving someone's life, I think that we're all on the same team,” McClure said.
Rutherford said he also wanted to acknowledge the other citizens who stopped to help the driver.
“Unfortunately, nobody knows who they are, but they know who they are, and I want to say thank you to all those people who got out at that crash scene to help,” Rutherford said. “And I appreciate them for coming to assist that man, because that was a potentially very dangerous situation that they put themselves in freely.”
Rutherford said their selfless act restored his faith in America.
“All of those people put themselves in harm's way to help a complete stranger, and that's the beauty of it,” Rutherford said.
McClure said they've tried to call the hospital several times to check on the driver, but hospital personnel can't give them any information.
Both men said that if the driver would like to get in touch with them, they would be happy to find out how he's doing.