Just before 12 o’clock one winter night, Roy Gaby ran out of gasoline. He was returning from Waco to Houston, Texas, in a heavy 14-wheel truck trailer.
From a house nearby, he telephoned his wife, “SOS, honey, I’m out of gas.” Mrs. Gaby sighed, bundled up the baby and set out to the rescue in the family car.
On the way home Mrs. Gaby drove ahead of Roy. About ten miles from Houston a speeding car darted out of a side road without stopping. It forced Mrs. Gaby’s car off the highway. In the rear-view mirror she caught sight of Roy’s truck swerving to avoid a collision. Then she heard a crash.
The engine had smashed into a mammoth oak tree and the trailer had piled up on the cab. Roy was trapped in the twisted debris.
A passing motorist rushed into the village of Fairbanks and notified Deputy Sheriff Don Henry.
Sheriff Henry decided to try “untelescoping” the wreck. “We attached a wrecker to the front of the mashed-in engine, hoping to pull it straight enough to get Gaby out. But the idea didn’t work.
“We added the power of a truck at the front of the wrecker. Finally, two more trucks were attached to the rear, and they pulled in the opposite direction. But still no luck,” said Henry recalling the accident.
Small flames appeared beneath the truck, and there was no extinguisher at hand. Halting passing drivers, Henry set helpers to working frantically at the crumpled doors with hammers and crowbars. The twisted doors refused to budge.
Henry then crawled onto the hood of the car and turned his flashlight on the victim. The steering wheel was crushed against Gaby’s waist, and his feet were pinned between twisted brake and clutch pedals. Tiny plames were licking at his feet.
“I’m an accident investigator,” Henry told me later, “and I’ve seen a lot of terrible sights. But I’ve neva seen one more terrible, and I never felt more helpless. I looked at Mrs. Gaby and the baby, then back at the poor guy in the burning cab. I felt like praying for a miracle.”
The Mysterious Samson
At that moment, a husky Negro appeared out of the darkness.
“Can I help?” he asked quietly. Henry shook his head. Nobody could help if three trucks and a wrecker couldn’t budge that cab. And by the time cutting torches and fire apparatus arrived, it was going to be just too bad.
The Negro calmly walked over to the cab. He put his hand on the door and wrenched it off!
S p e e c h l e s s, the crowd watched the Negro reach into the cab and tear out the burning floor mat. Then he put out the flames around Gaby’s legs with his bare hands.
“It was just about then that I caught a glimpse of the big fellow’s face,” said one of the witnesses. “At first I thought he was in a trance. Then I saw that set expression for what it was—-cold fury.
“I’d seen it before,” he continued, “at pearl Harbor and in battles in the Pacific during World War II. I remember thinking: Why, that guy’s not calm, he’s enraged.”
Swiftly,almost as if rehearsed, the Negro worked on, poking large arms into the cab truck.
“He straightened that steering wheel as if it were tin,” the driver of the wrecker said. “With his left hand on the brake pedal and his right on the clutch,he all but uprooted the whole works to free Gaby’s feet.
Muscle vs. Metal
But the most difficult job wasn’t done. The victim lay encased in what witnesses called a “squashed sardine can over a bonfire.”
Patiently, then stubbornly, the big man struggled to squeeze in beside Gaby. The space was too tiny.
Stepping back from the cab, he hesitated for an instant. The flames were growing. He glared at them, slumped to a squatting position and began pushing into the cab, fighting crazily.
At long last he was in far enough to rest his feet firmly on the floorboard. He started rising slowly. His muscles bulged in the half-light and the sleeves af his shirt tore.
“Good heavens, he’s trying to push up the top!” a woman’s voice called.
Neck and shoulders against the caved-in cab roof, he pushed. Hard.
“We actually heard the metal give,” reported a farmer who had come to the scene.
To be continued……………………………………..