BENNINGTON Three people badly hurt, a fourth trying to rescue them, also injured.
A Wednesday afternoon crash on Highway 36 in Bennington caused quite a stir for the typically quiet stretch of road. According to those who saw the crash up close, it could have ended very differently.
"It's all kind of a blur," said Joe Johnson, now one day removed from what some are calling his heroic efforts to save another man's life.
"I was for sure if that truck went, while we were there trying to pull that kid out, none of us would be here," said Johnson.
On Wednesday a Bennington police officer was heralded by many as a hero. He rushed toward the burning garbage truck and tried to help a man out of the burning vehicle, but he insisted to those who would listen that the real heroes were the bystanders who jumped in with no regard for their own lives.
On Thursday those two men, Joe Johnson and Mike Workman, talked with WOWT 6 News about what they saw.
While Johnson said it's a blur, Workman remembered the situation vividly. A fire burning, and all the doors jammed and mangled shut. The young man, now identified as 21-year-old Blaine Rageth, was covered in hydraulic fluid that spilled during the crash.
Workman struggled to get ahold of him, Johnson also couldn't get a grip. Workman said he even started to tell the young man to grab his hair and pull his way out. The two men worked without any regard of their own safety. Workman said there was no time to back away, that no one should die the way.
"There wasn’t anybody there yet, there was no time for that (waiting)," said Workman. "You got a truck in flames… a kid screaming help. What can you do?”
Both Workman and Johnson recall Rageth screaming for help, begging them to not let him die. Neither man gave up. The Bennington officer who was by then suffering from heat exhaustion also wouldn't leave. A fourth person, a DOT worker, was using a fire extinguisher to keep Rageth's legs from catching on fire.
"It was insane," said Workman. "That probably kept him alive."
Roughly 20 or 30 seconds after the men squeezed Rageth through a back window, they pulled him away and the garbage truck exploded. The men said it's nothing like you see in the movies, but noted that had they all been there, it's likely none of them would have walked away.
The two men said they're now hoping they get a chance to meet Rageth when he's feeling better.
Rageth is currently listed in fair condition after being rushed the the hospital one day earlier in critical condition.