Man who pulled trucker from fiery crash thanks God

The driver was stuck inside the burning cab

Chuck Zeilter was driving home from work after midnight on September 1 when he saw a burning truck crashed on I-5 and pulled the driver out. (KOIN)
Chuck Zeilter was driving home from work after midnight on September 1 when he saw a burning truck crashed on I-5 and pulled the driver out. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The man who pulled a truck driver from a fiery crash says God put him in the right place at the right time to save that man’s life.

Chuck Zeitler was on his way home from work at the Oregon State Prison when he saw a semi-trailer engulfed in flames on I-5. The truck had crashed into a Highway 20 overpass pillar and guardrail.

“The cab was pretty much burned away but I could see the driver still in the cab and screaming ‘get me out of here,'” Zeilter told KOIN 6 News.

Chuck Zeilter was driving home from work after midnight on September 1 when he saw a burning truck crashed on I-5 and pulled the driver out. (KOIN)
Chuck Zeilter was driving home from work after midnight on September 1 when he saw a burning truck crashed on I-5 and pulled the driver out. (KOIN)

He pulled his motorcycle over and ran toward the flames to help. The truck driver, 51-year-old Terence Jay Shaw was stuck in the cab until his seat belt burned away and Zeitler was able to drag him to safety minutes before the trailer exploded.

An off-duty paramedic from Tangent also stopped and helped Shaw until an ambulance arrived to take him to a Portland hospital.

Zeilter told KOIN 6 News he doesn’t consider himself a hero, though Shaw’s family does. As a boiler technician in the Navy for 24 years and a boiler operator at the prison, he was taught to run toward fire and danger.

“If something goes wrong, I have to run to the problem, not away from it,” he said.

Zeilter also said he was in the right place at the right time because his coworker hit traffic and he had to stay late.

“If I had gotten off 10 minutes earlier, I would have been by the accident and never saw it, never been able to help,” Zeilter said. “I think that’s God putting me where I need to be.”

Zeilter is an elder at the Fusion Faith Center in Albany and recently became a pastor. The hero, who was treated for smoke inhalation in Corvallis but is doing fine, said it was “phenomenal” to see Shaw alive and well.

“The fact that he got out and he’s alive,” Zeilter said. “I’m just so thankful. I thank God for that.”