(SHOALS) - Scott Jones, of Indianapolis, was driving a semi-tractor trailer Tuesday afternoon when he was flagged down and asked to slow because of an accident on U.S. 50, west of Freeman Road.
"I was the third vehicle in line headed west," Jones says. "All of us had to quickly slow down and someone was waving their arms and yelling to grab fire extinguishers."
According to a Martin County Police report, 46-year-old John Hovis was traveling east on U.S. 50 when for some unknown reason he went left of the center line and collided with a Mack semi-tractor trailer driven by Robert Hand.
The impact caused Hovis' Volkswagen Beetle to ignite on fire. The car went down an embankment into a small ditch where it continued to burn until Shoals firefighters arrived to extinguish the blaze.
"Three of us grabbed fire extinguishers and headed toward the Volkswagen," Jones says. "We all three emptied the extinguishers and it wasn't putting a dent in the flames. We couldn't get it out. It just kept getting bigger."
That is when one witness tried to pull Hovis out of the vehicle.
"But he was stuck, so we both tried and we still couldn't get him out," Jones says. "He was stuck under the dash. There were people standing up at the road, but no one would help us get him out. I guess they were afraid the car would explode and I understand that,I was afraid too and the flames kept getting higher."
That is when the other people helping backed off.
"I couldn't quit trying," Jones says while choking back tears. "Sorry this is just so emotional and hard to talk about. I started pulling and jerking harder, but he wouldn't budge. That is when I heard him say 'Please someone help me'... I was determined to get him out."
That is when Jones and Hovis determined they might be able to push the seat back.
By this time Jones says the flames were within inches of him.
"I could feel the flames and thought I was being burned too," Jones says. "But I couldn't let him go.....I had to stay with him....I was so afraid the car was going to blow up....I gave one big jerk and he came free. Both of us landed on the ground with him on top of me."
Jones then yelled for help to get Hovis up the hill and away from the burning car.
"I heard someone say he's free and then they came down to help me get him up the hill," Jones says. "I can't even tell you how bad John was hurt. I know he had burns on his legs or it looked like it. It was chaos. All I know is he was free and away from the fire."
Then others in the crowd started helping Hovis.
When the men were away from the vehicle, Hovis told Jones there was a loaded gun in the Volkswagen.
"At about that time we heard boom, boom, boom," Jones says.
"I heard one of them say they were a nurse, so I let her do her job," Jones says. "That is when the emergency personnel started arriving."
Hovis was taken by helicopter to the University of Louisville Hospital where he is listed in fair condition.
The semi went off the south side of the road and hit a tree and partially turned on its side.
"I ran over there to see if I could help but the semi was way down a steep hill and someone told me they thought the driver was okay, but couldn't get out of the truck," Jones says. "There wasn't much anyone could do to get him out because of how the semi was lying. So I walked back over to John to make sure he was still okay."
Hand had to be freed from the semi, owned by Presnell Brothers. He was taken to IU Health Bedford and then transferred to St. Mary's Hospital in Evansville where he was treated and released.
"I am glad John is okay," Jones says. "And I hope I never have to see anything like that again, but I would do it again if I had to. I just couldn't leave him there....I just couldn't."
The accident was investigated by Martin County Sheriff Department Sgt. Keith Keller and he was assisted by Sheriff Rob Street, Chief Deputy Tony Dant, Indiana State Police Trooper Ken Miller, the Shoals Fire Department, Martin County Civil Defense, Martin County EMS, Air Evac and G&M Wrecker Service.
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