At 1:33 a.m. Thursday, Officers Carter Willmon and Roger Ordaz got a report of an accident involving an 18-wheeler tanker truck that had fallen more than 40 feet from the northbound U.S. 59 flyover and separated upon impact before erupting into flames. At the moment they arrived, neither officer knew what substance the truck had been transporting.
"The cab landed in the southbound lanes of Loop 287, while the tanker landed in the northbound lanes," Lufkin Police and Fire said in a statement on its Facebook page.
Both Willmon's and Ordaz's police vehicles could be seen backing up slowly from the crash site because neither knew what substance the truck was carrying, police said.
"When they approached the cab, they did not know what was inside the burning tanker. It could have been gasoline -- ready to explode -- or a deadly chemical," Lufkin police said Friday.
"Is somebody yelling?" Ordaz could be heard asking on his body camera after the two men get out of their vehicles. "I hear somebody yelling."
"Think we can hear the driver yelling. ... He's on the southbound side," Willmon says into his radio. "I don't want to sit here."
"Yeah, he's yelling for help," Ordaz says.
Both officers could then be seen on Ordaz's body camera running toward the driver who was trapped in the truck's smashed cab, despite the fear that the truck and cab could explode at any moment.
"We can see him," Ordaz says.
Both Ordaz and Willmon pulled the driver from the cab and then carried him quickly from the wreckage. The driver could be heard crying out in pain.
"Hold on, man. We're getting you out of here," one of the officers can be heard saying. "I know you hurting."
The driver later asked to walk, but after the officers put him on the ground they realized he was too bloodied and in too much pain so they carried him again, farther from the truck scene.
"Thankfully, the truck was only carrying orange juice, but the HAZMAT crew is offloading the truck's fuel tank. The scene smells like a mixture of orange juice and automotive fluid," Lufkin Police and Fire said on Thursday.
While the southbound flyover stayed open, the northbound side suffered some structural damage and needed to be inspected by a state Department of Transportation crew, authorities said.
The driver, identified as Leslie Rodriguez, 60, of Edinburg, Texas, suffered broken bones, authorities said. He was taken to a hospital and expected to be OK.
It was still unclear why the driver crashed off the flyover, police said Friday.