By Holly Wagner, WCCO-TV

MOUNDS VIEW, Minn. (WCCO) —A truck driver trapped in a burning semi truck says he’s lucky to be alive.

Charles Abbott, of Menahga, is recovering in the burn unit at Hennepin County Medical Center, hours after his semi rolled over and became a giant fireball off a ramp at Interstate 35W and Highway 10.

The ramp, in Mounds View, was closed for several hours while crews worked to clear the scene.

The semi rolled over around 12:45 a.m. and the truck, which was full of French fries, caught fire after it rolled over.

“I got knocked unconscious when the truck tipped over,” Abbott said. “When I woke up I was surrounded in flames.”

He said in that moment, he thought he was dreaming. The 28-year-old truck driver was hauling the load of French fries to Ohio, and had decided he better take a break.

He was driving on the interstate ramp, when he said he hit a patch of ice and slid off the road.

“It was smoky in there and kind of hard to breathe when I did wake up so, I mean by the grace of God, that I did,” Abbott said.

As he realized what was going on, the fire was spreading rapidly. He was trapped in the cab and could feel his legs burning.

“I kicked out the window and crawled out,” he said. “That’s all I knew how to do.”

By the time Abbott got out and was able to call 911, someone else had called for help.

He was taken to the hospital and is being treated for second-, possibly, third-degree burns on his legs.

“If I would have woke up any later than I did it would have been bad news,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here talking to you right now.”

Abbott said he’s been a truck driver for four years, but just got a new job three weeks ago at High Standard Transport out of North Dakota.

He’s hoping he’ll get to keep his job, but either way he’s just glad to still be here.

“It was just dumb luck, a blessing that I made it,” he said.

Abbott said this isn’t the first time he’s survived a life-threatening situation.

Ten years ago, he survived a motorcycle crash that put him in a coma for three weeks.

The ramp was closed for seven hours while the scene was cleaned up.

“It’s a very high traffic, thousands of vehicles through there every morning so there were some very significant delays,” said Lt. Eric Roeske with the Minnesota State Patrol. “Unfortunately because of the extensive clean-up there was nothing we could do to try to open that ramp any sooner.”

Investigators are trying to figure out what caused the rollover and the intense fire that followed the crash. Right now they don’t believe it was weather related.

Comments (13)
  1. M B says:

    Glad the driver is okay.

    Considering French Fries are partially pre-fried and have oil already in them, once the thing caught on fire, I bet those puppies burned like crazy. Self sustaining carbohydrate fire.

    Alas… 40,000 pounds of fries gone to waste… Think of all the starving Americans we could make obese with those.

  2. MT says:

    i doubt a few french fries are going to make any starving american obese

  3. GB says:

    That is a very busy ramp, as I have used it many times myself. Fortunately, there are other ways close by to get on the freeway.

    1. JR says:

      Wow, so you would rather arrive on time than have someone survive. Gotta love America. Glad you’re alive Chuck. We love you!

  4. Charles Abbott says:

    Hey everyone, I’m pretty alright, sorry for any trouble I may have caused for your morning commute, I hit a patch of ice with the trailer and it pulled the truck with it when it tipped. I wanna say thank you for everyone that has helped bring me to safety, especially the paramedics, the staff at the Hennepin Co Medical Center. It was a freak accident could have happened to anyone, I’m just glad to have lived through it. Thanks again to everyone who helped.

    1. linda says:

      Charles Im glad you are ok.I take that way everyday.

      1. Pete says:

        That stretch of Hwy 10 is famous for roll overs. Glad you’re okay. I drive tanker for Holiday and I drove by shortly after your crash. I was really worried that the driver didn’t make it out alive, so I’m glad to hear you are okay. Take care.

    2. Lisa says:

      Charles — We are glad you are okay. Lisa & Eric

    3. Dave Q says:

      There but for the grace of god go I! Charles… My name is Dave, I drove that very rig for Steve & then Lance (a friend of mine who leased it from Steve) when he. Ive made that run a dozen times or more and made that corner a hundred times! …. I assume you were headed to either Bloomington or Columbus with the fries? Wow… Lance called me to tell me what happened. I cant imagine what could have made that unit catch fire like that even in a lay over? That unit has had a bad og of it this last year… I dinged it up a few times, then I bashed in the front end with a 8 point buck last fall the very last time I drove it just E of Bismarck on 94. Its wierd I feel a kind of kinship with yah! I spent alot of time and miles in that rig. Im glad your all right man… hope yah heal up well!

  5. Karen Werling says:

    That driver is my best friend and he’s had his share of accidents so he’s had lots of close calls with his life and it’s just another story to tell how he escaped death yet again. Love ya buddy!

  6. ashley maijala says:

    your in a hospital and your worried about how you slowed traffic down. God obiouvsly wants you to stay here for awhile 🙂 i think you need to stay away from the roads for a while. lol God Bless you charlie, hope you can go home soon.

  7. Al Hoopes says:

    Charlie is a good driver. He drove for me for a few years and often I was taking a nap and never felt safer with anyone. Charlie could be Alex Debogorski from Ice Road Truckers. The man has a heart the size of a wheelbarrow. Get Well Charles !

  8. northern minnesota says:

    This guy is a crack. Get a life. Learn how to drive. I have heard lots of stories about the way you drive. Menahga and Sebeka are known for there stories. Glad to hear that you are going to be ok.

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