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.