‘He wasn’t alone’ says witness who tried to help trapped driver after crash

A witness who tried to help a trapped driver out of a burning truck wants the man’s family to know he wasn’t alone when he died.

Scott Bartley, 40, of Big Stone Gap, Virginia, died Wednesday afternoon after a crash on I-20 East in Morgan County east of Atlanta, Coroner Adam Carter told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The two-vehicle crash happened about 3:45 p.m. near mile marker 124, Morgan County Fire Chief Jeff Stone said.

It was about two miles from the Green County line and firefighters had to fight traffic for 10 miles before they arrived on scene, Stone said.

By then, it was too late.

Rudy Lanuza passed the wreck before officials arrived. Several people were calling for fire extinguishers and Lanuza, who had been traveling on the westbound side of the interstate, rushed to help.

“I was the one who got close to see if we could open the cab door, but there was no way we could get it open,” Lanuza told the AJC.

He was heartbroken and said he took the day off Thursday to speak with a counselor.

“It bothered me,” he said. “I called my boss crying. I didn’t go to work.”

Lanuza said he tried three times to use a chain to pull the door off Bartley’s semi-truck, but all he could do with his pickup truck was bend the frame. It wouldn’t open.

When the flames got too hot, Lanuza had to back away, he said.

Stone said when he and fire officials arrived, the cab was “fully involved” with fire and the front end of Bartley’s truck was crushed.

“His legs were pinned,” Stone said.

Officials later learned the box truck that collided with Bartley’s semi-truck was towing a mobile generator and the fuel from that generator ignited the fire.

The fuel tanks on both trucks were still full after the crash, Stone said.

An investigation is ongoing into the cause of the crash.

Lanuza said he wants Bartley’s family to know he and other witnesses did everything they could.

“He was not alone,” Lanuza said.

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