VENTURA (CBSLA) — A driver trapped in a fiery crash was seconds away from dying when a stranger pulled him out. Monday night, they reunited to remember the moment that changed both of their lives.
Rey Lugo, 46, is thankful to be looking at his work truck from the outside. But on Jan. 3, he was inside of it and thought he was going to die.
“The accident happened so fast, I didn’t realize any impact coming towards me,” he recalled. “I said please don’t let me die. I thought I was not going to make it.”
On that fateful day, Lugo’s boss at Taft Electric in Ventura let him go home early just before noon.
As he was headed south on Rose Avenue in Oxnard, Bryan Lutz, 38, happened to be headed northbound after his boss let him go home early as well.
That was when Lutz saw a silver car zoom past him from behind before crashing head on into Lugo’s truck.
After seeing that the driver of the silver car had not made it, Lutz focused on getting Lugo out.
“Saw the accident. I jumped out,” Lutz recalled. “Rey was saying: ‘Hey, I’m stuck. I’m stuck. I can’t get out.'”
“I’m like – help me. Help me. Get me out of here. Get out of here,” Lugo recalled.
When Lutz first tried to pull Lugo out, he discovered that the driver’s door was pinned shut. So he went around to the passenger’s side and tried to get him out that way.
At this point, the flames that were shooting out from the engine compartment were now in the cabin all around Lugo.
But the electrician foreman could not budge because his feet were stuck underneath the dashboard.
“I started looking around, head up; it’s hard. I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen to me,” Lugo recalled. “A lot of things rush through your head, your kids, your family, my grandkids.”
Lutz did not give up. He ran back to the driver’s side.
“Over the driver’s side door, reached in, bear hugged me. He said: ‘Do your part’,” Lugo remembered.
“He kind of leaned forward towards me. I grabbed onto him, got him out the window. Couple of hard yanks later, me and him were laying on the ground,” Lutz said.
Thirty seconds later, the truck burst into flames. Lutz said he got the chills looking at the charred truck later.
“It was close. I was like my babies will love me if I was burned. I couldn’t live with myself if I watched a man die in a fiery truck,” Lutz said. “I’d do anything for my family. So to know I helped him be there for his, it’s unreal.”
These once strangers believe they both got out of work early that day because they were meant to cross paths.
“Bryan Lutz. That’s my guardian angel,” Lugo said.
Lutz was recognized by Ventura County supervisors in a ceremony last week for his heroic action.