MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. — A Patrick Air Force Base airman is being credited with putting himself at risk to try to save the life of a driver whose dump truck crashed on Pineda Causeway on Monday.

  • Witness says dump truck blew a tire, overturned, caught fire
  • He says Patrick Air Force Base airman tried to save driver
  • Driver ultimately perished; airman transported to hospital

The dump truck overturned at about noon in the westbound lanes near Tropical Trail.

Vietnam veteran Skip Waddell says he was about three cars behind the dump truck and saw it unfold. He says the Air Force sergeant did everything he could to save the driver of the truck, but ultimately, the driver perished.

The airman "took the little fire extinguisher he had, he crawled on top of the truck to get the driver out, but the driver was pinned in, and (he) couldn't get him out," Waddell said.

The sergeant himself ended up suffering from smoke inhalation and was taken to a hospital.

Waddell said a tire blew out on the dump truck, forcing the driver to lose control. The truck struck a rail, rolled over and caught fire.

According to preliminary inspection of the tires by the Florida Highway Patrol, the tread seemed OK.

The crash snarled traffic on the causeway, and crews had to clean up spilled fuel before opening the road. Florida Department of Transportation officials were also at the scene checking the structure of the causeway.