Richard Eckler helped to rescue Robert Allen, Jr., from burning, Kenner, Louisiana, December 31, 1998. Allen, 33, was the driver of a car that was hit from behind by a truck while traveling on an interstate highway bridge that spanned a spillway off Lake Pontchartrain. Flames immediately erupted on the rear of the car, which came to rest with its passenger side against the bridge’s concrete rail. Eckler, 34, telephone technician, was approaching the scene when he saw the car fire. After he stopped and learned that the car was occupied, Eckler used fire extinguishers against the flames, but to no effect. To gain access to the passenger side of the car, he and other men picked up the front of the vehicle and, despite advancing flames, moved it away from the bridge rail. One of the other men attempted to open the passenger door but was not successful. From the narrow space between the rail and the burning car, Eckler then kicked out the window to that door, allowing the other man to reach inside, grasp Allen, and start to pull him out. Eckler also seized Allen and helped to pull, as did a third man who had responded. The three men pulled Allen, who was aflame, from the car and carried him away, then extinguished the flames on him. The car was shortly engulfed by flames, and three other persons in the car died at the scene. Allen was taken to the hospital for treatment of extensive burns. Eckler recovered from having inhaled smoke.
74274 – 847374274-8473