INDIANAPOLIS — Mitch Navarre said he's no hero, but he might have saved a life Thursday.
Navarre was one of the three good Samaritans who helped rescue a tanker truck driver after a crash and explosion Thursday afternoon on an interstate ramp on the east side of Indianapolis.
He was driving west on Interstate 70 in his semitruck when the tanker truck ahead of him flipped on the ramp to I-465 southbound. After running across multiple lanes of interstate traffic, Navarre spotted the driver of the tanker truck with his clothes on fire.
The tank truck driver, Jeffrey Denman, 59, of Brownsburg, suffered significant burns and was transported to Eskenazi Hospital in critical condition.
"As I was coming with my truck I saw the man," Navarre said. "He was burning and everyone was on their cell phone. The first thing that came to mind, I just parked the truck and jumped the highway and went onto the hill and tried to literally get the man out of that fire. I wasn't just trying to be famous or to be on TV. In fact when that happened, I just walked away. This man was burning. This man was actually fried."
Navarre literally took the coat off his back and gave it to his fellow trucker. He said the smoke around them grew heavy and dark as the tanker carrying 4,000 gallons of jet fuel started to explode.
"As I saw him getting ready to die, he knew he was gonna die," Navarre said. "I said, 'I'm going to get you out.' I don't know how, the whole flame was inside, we were inside the flame. Nobody saw us."
Another good Samaritan, Holly McNally, helped Navarre carry the injured trucker to the bottom of the ramp where they were met by another civilian and a state trooper.
Navarre, the former dean of a local school, is driving trucks while he studies for his PhD in leadership, a quality that may have saved a life.
“I heard some people say, ‘You’re gonna die together,’" Navarre said. "As they said that, I said to that guy, ‘I’m going to get you out. As I was coming out, everybody was saying I was a hero. I said, no, I was a human first."