Sanderson Farms employee Willie Kimble is being called a modern-day hero by North Carolina emergency responders after he pulled a motorist from a burning vehicle on Highway 11 just outside of Grifton, North Carolina, in December. The accident involved a delivery truck that had run off the road, struck a guardrail and tumbled down a steep embankment before overturning and igniting flames. Grifton Rescue and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) responders stated that by the time they arrived on the scene of the accident, the vehicle was engulfed in flames nearly 60 feet high while the vehicle’s onboard fuel tanks and tires had begun to explode, sending molten shards sailing through the air as Kimble and his passenger attempted to pull the severely burned driver out of the vehicle.
Kimble, a flock supervisor for Sanderson Farms’ Kinston, North Carolina, production division, was on his way to work early that morning when he noticed the burning truck on the side of the highway. In a statement to a local news station, Kimble said that the entire truck was engulfed in flames and diesel fuel had begun to drip down onto the driver’s body, fueling the flames even further. Kimble recalls hearing the vehicle’s driver cry out for help stating that he was on fire, something Kimble is likely to never forget hearing.
With the help of his passenger, Kimble was able to utilize a fire extinguisher that was stored in his truck and the coat from his own back to extract the man from the burning vehicle before first responders arrived. Had Kimble not responded so quickly and efficiently, emergency responders said that they would have been performing a recovery rather than a patient care procedure upon arrival at the scene.
After emergency responders arrived, two Grifton Police Officers helped Kimble transport the victim up the embankment to safety. “The clothes on the gentleman being brought up were still burning to the point that they [Kimble and first responders] had to sit him down on the embankment side of the guardrail so that they could cool their own hands,” said Ervin Harper, chief of Grifton EMS. Out of the twenty-two years that Harper has worked in rescue and EMS, he said that this particular accident was one of the most gruesome vehicle fires that he has witnessed in all of his experience in emergency response and rescue.
Once the driver of the burning vehicle was safely transported to an area within the highway median that was outside of the fire’s reach, Grifton Police Officers David Currington and Derrick Dennis proceeded to remove melted fragments of tire rubber that were singed into the driver’s flesh, as well as any remaining burned portions of his clothing. Emergency responders treated the victim’s burns and administered fluids and oxygen while attempting to keep him comfortable until he could be airlifted to the Jaycee Burn Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. An estimated 95 percent of his body was burned, with nearly 75 percent of those burns being estimated to be second or third degree burns.
“Had it not been for the quick and brave actions of Mr. Kimble, this story would have ended long before the arrival of Grifton police officers,” said Harper. “The bravery that Mr. Kimble exhibited is above and beyond what any of us would call ‘Good Samaritans.’ We call the people of this nature heroes, and only pray that our world consisted of more good men and women like them. Few people would risk their lives to save others- that they have never met- even less in the circumstances he faced. Mr. Kimble is a true hero in anyone’s mind.”
Since the accident, Kimble was nominated as a Grifton EMS honorary member and presented with a plaque distinguishing his heroic actions that fateful morning. According to Grifton Rescue and Emergency Medical Services, this nomination will mark the first time in their 54-year history to recognize someone other than the first responders of their respective agencies.
“Sanderson Farms and Kinston Production are proud to have employees such as Willie Kimble on our team,” said Randy Green, field employee relations manager for Sanderson Farms. “Willie’s care, compassion and dedication to ‘doing the right thing’ brings to light the principles found in Sanderson Farms’ philosophy, as demonstrated by his unselfish actions in assisting with the rescue of a driver from a burning vehicle.”
Tommy Robertson, division manager for the Kinston-based production facility where Kimble works, shared that the company’s vision statement emphasizes that Sanderson Farms is a special organization composed of caring individuals. “Willie’s actions exemplify the type of people we strive to be at Sanderson Farms,” said Robertson. “His swift call to action proves he is special and a caring individual not only in his personal life, but also at work.”