LINCOLN, Ill.—Two associates of Neal Tire and Auto Service in Lincoln are being hailed as heroes for saving a man's life by pulling him from a burning van. At about 9 p.m. on Dec. 2, Randy Grigg, 24, and Terrence ``T.J.'' Summers, 22, both of Lincoln, were returning to Mr. Grigg's residence after playing pool. They noticed flashing lights and saw some vehicles pulled off to the side of the road in a rural area.
Mr. Grigg said they saw a van upside down in a ditch next to the road with flames coming out of the engine area. They got out of their vehicle and asked a couple of bystanders what was going on.
``Is there anybody in there?'' Mr. Summers said he asked. Mr. Grigg said he noticed someone inside trying to crawl towards the back of the van. Mr. Grigg kicked the side windows but was unable to break them.
They tried to extinguish the fire by throwing dirt on it, but the flames continued to spread from the engine to the rest of the vehicle.
Mr. Grigg said he realized the danger and thought, ``This man's going to die if we don't get him out of there.''
Fortunately, one of the back doors of the 1985 GMC came open during the wreck. Mr. Summers said the man was screaming and appeared to be caught in the seat belts.
Messrs. Grigg and Summers crawled into the back of the van. Mr. Grigg grabbed 33-year-old David Crawford of Lincoln by the shoulders, and the two men pulled him out just before flames completely engulfed the vehicle.
As the fire spread, burning plastic from the interior dripped on the driver and his two rescuers.
One of the bystanders helped the two men carry Mr. Crawford across the road, away from the burning van.
``He was not coherent,'' said Mr. Summers. Mr. Crawford had a serious gash on his head and his feet were severely burned.
A Logan County sheriff's deputy and the rescue squad arrived, and Mr. Crawford was taken to a hospital. He was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and driving too fast for the road conditions.
Mr. Grigg, an alignment technician at Neal Tire for about four years, said he suffered a small burn on his forehead. Mr. Summers, a tire technician for about a year and a half, suffered a couple of small burns on his arm.
Both men said they didn't fully realize how dangerous the situation was until it was over. ``At the time, it didn't hit our heads that we could die from this,'' said Mr. Grigg. He said he learned later Mr. Crawford had stopped for fuel shortly before the accident so the van's gas tank was nearly full.
``I don't know what made us do what we did,'' Mr. Grigg said. ``You don't have time to think; you just do what you've got to do.''
The two rescuers said Mr. Crawford and members of his family have expressed their gratitude often since the accident. Mr. Grigg discovered he and Mr. Crawford live in the same trailer park, but they had never met before the night of the accident.
Chuck McLuckey, Neal Tire president, said of the two men, ``We're very proud of them.''