Richard Krochta is a hero. As far as Colorado State Patrol is concerned, it’s not even debatable.
Krochta, 56, was driving his semi west on U.S. Highway 24 just west of Woodland Park on his way from Colorado Springs to the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mine — a drive he makes daily for his job as a hauler for Savage Services. It was just before 4:00 a.m. Something was different. Lights were shining along the side of the road where they normally don’t. It was a fresh car crash and the vehicle was beginning to burn.
“I saw the car light up on fire, so I just jumped out of my truck, grabbed my fire extinguisher, and called 911 at the same time,” Krochta said. “As I’m putting the fire out, I can hear somebody yelling, ‘Help me! Help me!””
The minivan had gone off the right shoulder of westbound Highway 24 when the driver, described as a man in his late 60s, fell asleep at the wheel.
It struck a pine tree, breaking it in half, then came to rest about 15 feet off the side of the road.
“I couldn’t get in the driver’s door because of all the tree limbs, so I ran around the other side and that side was also blocked by a tree,” Krochta said.
The door was only able to open wide enough for the driver to stick his head out for fresh air as the cabin began to fill with smoke.
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