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Tanker driver feared for safety of his rescuers

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By Jenny Hartley

A tanker driver involved in a fiery crash Tuesday told his rescuers to leave him inside his truck because he thought it was going to blow up.

Brent Lowery of Lancaster helped pull Stanley W. Perry, 53, of Charlotte, from an overturned tanker at U.S. 521 and Twilight Road. Perry was transporting 8,000 gallons of gasoline.

Lowery said he was headed south on U.S. 521 and got on the entrance ramp at S.C. 903 when he saw a commotion farther down U.S. 521.

Lowery got back onto U.S. 521 and found the truck overturned. J.B. Burns, an employee of nearby Fastenal, a construction and industrial supply company, was trying to get Perry out of the windshield.

“There was just gas everywhere,” Lowery said. “His (Perry’s) shoe was hung up in the steering column.”

Lowery, who has a broken hand himself, was worried he’d have to free Perry by breaking his leg. Perry begged Lowery and Burns to leave him in the truck. Lowery heard whooshing sounds before the gas ignited.

“He said, ‘Y’all need to leave me – this thing is gonna blow. You need to go,’ ” Lowery said. “It was throwing fire out of the smokestacks (of the truck).”

A firefighter handed Lowery a knife, and Lowery cut Perry’s shoelace, freeing him from the tanker cab. Burns and Lowery dragged Perry about 20 or 30 feet before flames engulfed the tanker.

“It was hot,” Lowery said.

Lowery helped place Perry on a stretcher.

“He had a concussion and a scrape on his leg,” Lowery said. “Ten seconds later, if it was 10, it would have been different.”

According to the S.C. Highway Patrol, Perry was trying to make a right turn onto Twilight Road but was driving too fast, causing the truck to overturn.

He was charged with driving too fast for conditions, Lance Cpl. Jeff Gaskin said.

A black plume of smoke could be seen for miles from the crash.

Firefighters were at the scene for several hours, and Twilight Road and U.S. 521 were closed in the area around the crash.

After the rescue, Lowery walked to a nearby store to get something to drink.

He was short of breath and asked a friend to take him to Springs Memorial Hospital.

His truck was still at the crash scene, the front end partially melted from the heat of the blaze.

Lowery had a low oxygen level from breathing in the gasoline fumes.

He was treated and released later on Tuesday.

He had a chance to talk to Perry and his family before he left the hospital.

“I got hugs from his family,” Lowery said.

When asked Wednesday if he felt like a hero, Lowery said: “Not really. I don’t feel any different. Thank God, we got him out.”

 

Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at jhartley@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1151