Turnpiker Pulls Customer from Burning Car, Saving Life
It started off as just another day when Eric Bruno arrived habitually early to work at the Pittsburgh Interchange Jan. 8.
“I got to work at about 5:15 (a.m.), even though I started at 6,” Bruno said.
About 15 minutes after he arrived, and a half hour before his scheduled start time, he was in the right place at the right time to help save the life of a customer who had crashed into one of the toll booths.
Bruno, a 32-year veteran of the Turnpike in fare collections, was sweeping up salt outside the collection building at around 5:30 a.m. when he said he suddenly heard a “horrific” crashing and grinding noise.
Two vehicles had crashed and one of them was on fire in lane 8 with the driver inside.
“I was praying that he would get out of the car,” Bruno said.
Quickly realizing the driver wasn’t escaping and the blaze was getting worse, Bruno bolted over to the vehicle to assist the injured driver.
“He was leaning on the car screaming, ‘I broke my hip, help me!’” Bruno recalled. “So, I got under his shoulder so he could hop on his good leg.”
They got “three or four hops” down the lane before Bruno said the pain and shock the driver was feeling caused the driver to collapse. “I kept telling the guy, ‘Dude, you got to get up, the car is going to explode, and we got to get away from here,’” Bruno said. “All he kept saying was, ‘Help me.’” With the help of a passerby, they got the injured driver away from the car safely.
While Bruno admits he briefly thought about the danger and the impact on his wife and kid, he said he knew he needed to help someone in trouble.
“Nothing really hit me until I was talking to a trooper who responded on scene, and he said to me ‘Thank you… you saved this man’s life,” Bruno said. “And it never hit me until he said it that this guy would have probably burned up if it wasn’t for me and that customer helping him out of the car.”
Bruno said watching back the surveillance video of the crash and his response was emotional.
“I kind of got the shakes because of the terribleness of the accident and the extremeness of the fire,” Bruno said.
But he said he’s glad that both drivers escaped in the nick of time.
“It was an interesting morning,” Bruno said.
By Crispin Havener, PA Turnpike Commission, Media Communications Specialist