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Good samaritans recall struggle to rescue man from burning truck

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Good samaritans recall struggle to rescue man from burning truck
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The minutes following Monday's fiery Thruway crash were a matter of life or death for the driver. State Police say Timothy Neild was driving westbound when his car drifted into the median and crashed into a bridge abutment near Interstate 481 in DeWitt. It was a group of good samaritans that would come to his rescue. Our Sarah Blazonis sat down with two of them and has more about that scary experience.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- From the time Kevin Harrigan, Sherry Kline, and other drivers pulled over to help at the scene of Monday's Thruway crash, they knew the situation was bad.

"I saw the car on fire, and then I saw somebody running and so I said to Sherry, 'God, there must be somebody trapped in that car," said Harrigan, an Attorney with Harrigan & Dolan in Syracuse.

"All you could think about was to get there and to see who was in it and to see what you could do to get them out," said Kline, a Legal Assistant. She and Harrigan were on their way to Albany to meet with clients when they came upon the crash.

Inside the pick-up truck, National Guard member Timothy Neild, 33, was unconscious. Flames leapt from the passenger side, while the front of the vehicle was pinning Neild into his seat. And, despite the efforts of five people, the driver's side door wouldn't open.

"I thought a couple of times that, 'We are going to have to watch this young guy burn to death,'" said Harrigan.

Finally, one man climbed on top of the truck and was able to push with his feet against part of the door that was bent outward.

"We he started to push it and we pulled it, you could hear a creak, and pretty soon it started to move," said Harrigan.

"It was like you could breathe again," said Kline of the moment the door opened. "It's like, 'Okay, we've got him, he's out, he's going to be okay, he's going to make it.'"

Harrigan says it was less than a minute after they pulled Neild about 30 feet from the truck when there was a huge explosion.

"Tom Buckel, he was standing five feet in front of me, actually the concussion from the blast blew him right off his feet and he landed on his back," Harrigan said of another man who help in the effort. "And if we had been standing right next to the truck, it would've been not so hot."

By the time it was all over, a few other drivers had pulled over to call 911 or offer help.

Harrigan and Kline say what they did wasn't anything extraordinary.

"You like to think that most of them would've done the same thing. That's what we do, people help other people, neighbors help neighbors. That's what humanity is all about," said Kline.

And when asked what kept rescuers working even when someone warned the car could explode, they have a simple answer.

"You couldn't leave him," said Harrigan. "You could never leave him."

Neild remains in critical condition at an area hospital.

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