Local highway trooper springs into action

In Raul Carrillo’s 19 years with the Kansas Highway Patrol, he had never undergone an experience like he did recently. The Derby resident was headed southbound on the Kansas Turnpike near El Dorado when a northbound tanker truck, loaded with more than 7,000 pounds of diesel fuel, lost control and slammed into the center divider. “It all happened pretty fast,” recalled the trooper. Carrillo swerved right, avoiding a collision, but immediately knew it was a serious situation. “It shot up a big old ball of fire and there were flames and smoke,” he said. He immediately radioed the accident into dispatchers and analyzed the scene. The tanker trailer was lying on its side and the fuel was gushing out. Carrillo said he didn’t think the driver survived. Another motorist stopped and said she could hear the driver and knew he was still alive. A truck driver also stopped and attempted to use his fire extinguisher, but it couldn’t handle the massive flames. Despite that, Carrillo headed to the cab and worked to pull the driver out. “I grabbed his belt but he was stuck. So I had to tug and tug on him and he finally popped through,” he said. At that point, Carrillo had no idea if there were any other people in the cab, but the driver was able to say there weren’t. Carrillo was glad to hear that. “I sure didn’t want to have to go back in there,” he said. He then worked to get some distance between himself, the driver and the mass of fire. Carrillo knew help was on the way, but his sense of time was knocked off and it seemed like it was taking forever for assistance to arrive. Fire crews arrived first and worked to treat the driver and Carrillo, who suffered smoke inhalation and injuries to his hand. Both were taken to a hospital for treatment. Carrillo was placed on a medical leave, but was able to go back to work. Thinking back on the sequence of events on Feb. 21, Carrillo said it was all “surreal.” Human instinct told his body to run in a different direction, but he knew he had to go toward the flames, he said. From then, he was operating on pure adrenaline, especially when pulling the driver out. Carrillo’s squad car had a dash camera video recording of the scene, which the patrol has not yet released as the incident is under investigation. There was another vehicle that was damaged by debris from the truck, but that driver was not injured. The truck driver, a 55-year-old Emporia man, is recovering and Carrillo has an experience under his belt that he will never ever forget. “I’m counting my blessings on that one,” he said. “It could have been a lot uglier, that’s for sure.”

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