Heroes risk their lives to save driver trapped in fiery crash

Daniel Cook and Brandon Melancon rescued the driver of this truck that crashed on I-49 at Derry June 9, 2020. File photo

Receive Carnegie Medal
In its first announcement of 2022, the Carnegie Hero Fund recognized 18 civilians, including two involved in an incident in Natchitoches Parish, who risked their lives to save others. Each will receive the Carnegie Medal, North America’s highest honor for civilian heroism.
Among those saved by this quarter’s awardees, were at least nine children ranging in age from 5 to 13 years old. The Carnegie Medal is given throughout the U.S. and Canada to those who enter extreme danger while saving or attempting to save the lives of others. Commission Chair Mark Laskow said each of the awardees or their survivors will also receive a financial grant. Throughout the 118 years since the Fund was established by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, nearly $44 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits and continuing assistance.

This article published in the April 9, 2022, print edition

The awardees include Daniel L. Cook of Alexandria and Brandon Melancon of Church Point. A boom truck driver was trapped in the driver’s seat after a June 9, 2020, accident in Derry that left the truck overturned and on fire. Cook, 48, a field operations manager, and Melancon, 36, an operations executive, responded to the driver’s window where they each extended an arm into the truck and pulled on the clothing of driver Justin A. Richmond, 28, but his lower body was pinned. Switching their grasp to Richmond’s arms, they continued to pull on him as flames entered the truck’s passenger compartment and burned Richmond. As Richmond’s legs came free, Cook aided him to the ground, then Cook and Melancon dragged him from the vehicle.
The victim made a full recovery, but went through multiple surgeries.

Following is the original article published in the Natchitoches Times following the incident.
A 28-year-old Rapides Parish man suffered serious injuries and burns to over 50 percent of his body in a single-vehicle crash off Interstate-49 at Derry. Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s deputies, Louisiana State Police, Natchitoches Regional Medical Center EMS, NPSO Rescue, Natchitoches Parish Fire District #1, Natchitoches Parish Fire District 5, Natchitoches City Fire, Natchitoches Parish Fire District #6, Louisiana State Police Motor Carrier Safety, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and Air EVAC Lifeteam helicopter responded to 911 reports of a single-vehicle crash involving a large truck on fire with injuries at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 9 (2020).
Deputies learned the vehicle had left the interstate, went airborne and landed on La. Hwy 119 fully engulfed in flames.
According to Louisiana State Police, a 2019 Freightliner (Volt Electric) boom truck, operated by a 28-year-old Forest Hill, later identified as Justin A. Richmond, man was traveling northbound on I-49 near the Derry overpass when, for reasons still under investigation, left the roadway on the right side, struck a metal guard rail, then concrete rail, before going airborne and landing several feet down on the paved portion of La. Hwy 119. The truck travelled through metal guardrails before coming to a rest on its ride side and catching on fire.
Motorists that witnessed the crash, identified as Dan Cook of Alexandria, RN, Brandon Melancon of Church Point, Steve Pierce of Cloutierville and others pulled the semi-conscious driver from the burning wreckage.
The driver suffered serious injuries and burns to his body. He was treated by Natchitoches EMS and airlifted to LSU Medical Center Burn Center in Shreveport.
The driver was wearing a seat belt.
Residents in the area reported the crash shook their homes and smoke could be seen for miles from the fire.
The fire was extinguished by responding fire units.
At 12:20 p.m., towing services, Volt electric crews and La. DOTD remained on the scene clearing debris and wreckage.
The NPSO applauds the motorists who stopped to assist and aid their fellow man. Each stated they couldn’t watch him burn to death.
To nominate someone for the Carnegie Medal, complete a nomination form online or write to the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, 436 Seventh Ave., Suite 1101, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. More information on the Carnegie Medal and the history of the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission can be found at carnegiehero.org. Follow us on Facebook and  Twitter.