MANATEE — The frantic efforts to free a man from his burning truck Monday morning after a violent three-vehicle crash on State Road 64 proved unsuccessful, leaving two men lamenting the fact they couldn’t save the driver’s life.
The Parrish man killed in the crash has not been identified by the Florida Highway Patrol, pending notification of his family. The driver of one of three vehicles involved in the crash has been cited in the wreck.
“I just feel for his family,” said truck driver Jesus Torres, whose tractor-trailer ground to a halt after authorities say a pickup truck hit it setting off the fatal crash. FHP reports say just after 11 a.m., for unknown reasons, Charles E. Mcleod, 20, of Sarasota, drove his 2005 Dodge pickup across the center line of S.R 64, entering the westbound lane while heading east near Kibler Ranch Road.
The Dodge collided with the left side of Torres’ tractor trailer twice, before careening forward into the westbound lane and colliding head-on with a Ford Ranger behind the big rig.
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After the crash, the Ford Ranger burst into flames, sending Torres and a motorist who stopped at the crash to try to pull the victim from the truck.
On his way to a job in Highlands County, Lakewood Ranch resident Steven Arnold pulled off the road, arriving at the scene just after the crash. Arnold grabbed a fire extinguisher from Torres’ truck and both men ran to the Ranger.
“I didn’t know if he was alive or not, but I just wanted to get him out so he wouldn’t burn up. You could see the truck was going to explode any minute,” said Arnold. “The fire extinguisher wasn’t doing anything so we just started pulling at the door.”
The men pulled and pried at the doors on the truck to no avail, but finally the driver’s side door budged. Torres and Arnold pulled him out.
“We pulled on it as hard as we could and got enough of an opening to get him out,” said Arnold. “Unfortunately, we could tell he wasn’t going to make it. It is a tragedy.”
Torres held out hope as they pulled the man from the truck, but it quickly faded.
“I kept yelling, ‘Are you OK, are you OK?’ But he wasn’t saying anything,” said Torres. “You could tell it wasn’t good.”
Mcleod suffered minor injuries in the crash but refused medical treatment at the scene. FHP troopers cited him on a charge of driving left of center, according to reports.
FHP Lt. Chris Miller said there were no signs that alcohol was involved in the crash. He said the man killed in the crash was not using a seat belt. FHP troopers closed S.R. 64 for more than two hours to clean up and investigate the crash.