PROVO When seven Utah Department of Transportation workers risked their lives to save a man they didn't know, they didn't expect to be honored one month later by the governor.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. honored the seven UDOT employees Thursday for their courage while trying to save Rick Velasquez from his burning truck in Carbon County at the intersection of state Route 10 and state Route 122.
On April 2, Velasquez was driving a coal truck that collided with a gravel truck, causing an explosion. The UDOT employees, David "Jake" Brown, Steve Carnesecca, Alan Nielsen, Jimmy Norr, Mark Prows, Curtis Sanchez and Dave Stallworth, were working along the highway when they heard the explosion. They climbed in their trucks, drove to the scene and tried to help Velasquez out of the burning truck, according to a statement from UDOT.
Velasquez's foot was caught between the steering column and the seat, and he was unable to free himself. The rescuers rounded up 16 fire extinguishers to try to kill the fire but had to pull back when the flames were too high and became too hot. However, Velasquez was able to free his foot.
Although Velasquez was able to get out of the vehicle, he died that evening at the University of Utah hospital. Sanchez, Brown, Stallworth and Norr received minor injuries from smoke inhalation and first- and second-degree burns on their arms, hands and faces.
Carlos Braceras, UDOT deputy director, said these men helped Velasquez because they felt it was part of their job and they will be remembered for helping others and thinking of others before themselves.
Huntsman lauded the men for their act of heroism, a term he said was not used lightly.
"This is the greatest sign of American heroism ... . It exists in everyday life," he said. "It makes me proud to be a Utahn."
In addition to awarding the men plaques, Huntsman also acknowledged the work that maintenance crews do for the state, especially when it's late or early and when it's not always safe. He said when the crews don't do their jobs, he knows because he gets calls.
"Since we don't get calls, we know you're doing your jobs," he said.