James J. Blount III saved Sigmund Molis, Jr., and James Tatem from burning, Suffolk, Virginia, July 19, 2006. Molis, 52, was the driver of a tractor-trailer that struck the rear of a utility truck driven by Tatem, 54, on an interstate highway bridge over Hampton Roads. The vehicles came to rest along the bridge’s concrete wall, which hampered access to their driver’s doors. Flames broke out at the front of the tractor and spread to the rear of the utility truck, which carried welding supplies and equipment. Off duty, Blount, 32, firefighter and medic, witnessed the accident while traveling on the bridge. After reporting it, he donned firefighting attire, including helmet, and attempted to douse the flames with extinguishers he obtained from Tatem’s truck and other motorists. They were of little effect. Accessing the driver’s side of the tractor by going under the trailer, Blount climbed to the driver’s door of that rig and opened it. He helped Molis, who was severely injured, from the cab and to the pavement, keeping him from falling from the bridge, and they then went under the trailer to safety across the highway lanes. With flames on the tractor intensifying, Blount went to the passenger door of Tatem’s vehicle but found it jammed. He broke out the door window with his helmet, then maneuvered head first partially into the cab. Blount grasped Tatem, who was unresponsive, then pulled him to the door, through the window, and across the bridge to safety. Both drivers required hospital treatment, Molis for chest injuries, but neither was burned.
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