BUFORD, Ga. --
There are a few who move toward the sounds of chaos, ready to respond at a moments notice.
For Marine recruiter Sgt. Matthew Sullivan that moment came on Sunday, March 9, when he witnessed a truck engulfed in flames on the shoulder of I-85N at Old Peachtree Road.
“I pulled my vehicle over to the shoulder about 75 meters behind the truck,” said Sullivan, a recruiter with Recruiting Sub-Station Buford and native of Lawrenceville, Ga. “As I sprinted toward the vehicle I observed a man covered in flames escaping from the passenger side of the truck.”
Sullivan began instructing the 26-year-old driver to drop to the ground and roll to extinguish the flames and soon noted the possibility of a secondary explosion. He then grabbed the victim by the armpits and pulled the man to safety, at which point other good Samaritans began assisting the situation.
A veteran soldier helped in directing traffic away from the scene, and a woman provided a bottle of water which Sullivan used to help put out the remaining fire from the victim’s clothing. A lance corporal driving home from his reserve drill unit on Dobbins Air Reserve Base also helped by providing water and a first aid kit.
Sullivan continued to console the man as rescue workers were already in route to the scene.
“I just kept repeating to the man ‘You are alive, as long as you are breathing and screaming you are alive! Help is on the way,’” said Sullivan as he triaged the victim, assessing for any broken bones or further injuries before the arrival of emergency personnel.
The first officer on scene was Officer Paul Robinson of the uniformed division of the central precinct of the Gwinnett Police Department.
The only people who stopped to help the situation were two Marines, a soldier and a firefighter’s wife, according to Robinson.
“They did everything that you are supposed to do and could ask of a bystander,” said Robinson. “They could have continued to pass by but instead went above and beyond.”
The victim was transported to Gwinnett Medical Center before being transferred to Grady Hospital’s burn unit. The victim remains in critical condition.
“Afterwards, when all the adrenaline recessed, I took a moment to pray for the man,” said Sullivan. “I really believe I was meant to be there that day to help him.”