An Idaho truck driver narrowly escaped serious injury Thursday when his brakes failed on Spooner Summit, and he barreled through a Carson City intersection at lunchtime.
"He just shot straight through and flipped over," said witness Chris Sargent, 27.
Sargent was with his wife and cousin in a northbound vehicle on Highway 395 at the Highway 50 junction, when he caught sight of the speeding tractor trailer driven by Shane Bikman, 52.
Once through the intersection the trailer slammed into a light post, and the whole rig flipped onto its side in the embankment between Highway 395 and Frontage Road, Sargent said.
When Sargent got up to the cab of the truck, flames were coming from the engine, and a tire was on fire. He said he was unable to see the driver because the cab was filled with black smoke.
Other motorists stopped and yelled at Sargent to back away, he recalled, but he ignored them and continued to throw and kick sand onto the flames.
"This guy was on fire, man. I'm not going to let him burn," he said.
Soon, others joined in, he said.
Once the fire was knocked down, the bystanders broke out the truck's window. Sargent said Bikman was moaning but unconscious at the time.
Rescue crews spent about 40 minutes cutting Bikman from the mangled cab. He was conscious and talking when flown by helicopter to Washoe Medical Center.
Sgt. Mark Clark, of the Nevada Highway Patrol, said Bikman told officers he was coming into Carson City from Sacramento when his brakes got hot as he descended Spooner Summit.
"We asked him why he didn't take the runaway ramp, and he said he thought he could get the truck stopped," Clark said. "Fortunately, he didn't take anybody else out in the intersection."
He said Bikman's injuries are not life threatening.
Sargent stood for about an hour among the truck's spilled load of Sierra Springs bottled water. His white tennis shoes were burned and splattered with black globs from the hot motor oil that had dripped on them during the fire. He stayed at the scene until Bikman was removed from the wreckage, and police shooed Sargent away.
"I just wanted to make sure he's all right," Sargent said.
Contact reporter F.T. Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1213.