Robert Hall and Gary Bailey received citations from the Oklahoma City Fire Department Monday for their daring rescue of Mark Whitaker from his burning dump truck Aug. 16.
Whitaker only received scratches when he easily could have lost his life.
Bailey and Hall pried him free of the wreckage that became engulfed in flames only moments later.
Whitaker was present for the ceremony at OKCFD Station No. 35 and was deeply appreciative for what the two did to save him.
“I thank both of you guys for everything. I’ve got life. I’ve got family at the house I can go home to. I’m thanking god for it not being worse,” he said.
Both were on their way home from work when they saw the truck flip twice and land upside down near SW 149th Street and May Avenue.
They pried open the crushed cab of Whitaker’s dump truck and pulled him to safety as the truck was starting to burn.
“As soon as they pulled me out, the whole cab went into flames,” Whitaker told Free Press. “When they were getting me out it was already coming in on the passenger side.”
Whitaker’s dump truck lost control when the right front wheel dropped off the roadway while carrying a full load of dirt. The wheel then caught on a storm drain curb and flipped twice.
Hall was on his way home from his job as a communications specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Bailey, a City of Oklahoma City employee, was on his way home from his shift in the Street Maintenance Department.
It was Whitaker’s good fortune that Hall found a piece of angle iron propped against a power pole nearby and used it to pry open the door as Bailey worked on the latch from the inside.
Once the door was open they quickly pulled Whitaker out.
After he had been pulled to safety the engine company from Station No. 35 arrived.
Firefighters were surprised and happy when bystanders pointed out he driver and the two who rescued him.
There were plenty of smiles from the firefighters Monday at the ceremony.
Wife and family
Whitaker’s wife, Miranda was present for the ceremony and later fought back tears as she was talking about her husband’s brush with death.
“We have six children and 2 grandchildren,” she said. “The 5-year-old and 2-year-old were very glad to see their daddy.”
Randal Moulder, street superintendent for OKC, and Bailey’s supervisor Michael Colbert both said they were happy for him to receive the citation.
“We’re not surprised by his actions at all,” said Colbert.
“I’m Proud of him. Very proud of him,” Moulder said. “Doesn’t come as a surprise. Mr. Bailey is a crew chief. He’s one of our lead guys in our pothole patching operations.”