The Choice to Trust God

His faith convinced this truck driver he could rescue two people from a burning car.

- Posted on Nov 25, 2014

David Fredericksen rushes to help a woman and a child trapped in a burning car.

Remember David Fredericksen, the truck driver whose dash-cam video of his daring rescue of a woman and her granddaughter from a fiery crash on I-10 became a YouTube sensation last August? We always suspected there was more to his story than the five-minute footage shows. So we asked him.

How long have you driven long haul?
A little over five years. I’m 36 now. Before that, I did about everything. I worked on a drilling rig in Alaska, had a job in communications. I had to reinvent myself a few times. What’s that saying? Jack of all trades, master of none.

Why did you move around so much?
I was raised Baptist, but my family had lots of problems with drugs. I fell away from faith for many years, partying pretty hard. Too hard. I hit rock bottom. Finally, I prayed to find a woman who wouldn’t let me do drugs, who knew God and wanted a family.

The next day I met my wife. She’s a pastor of a Russian church. We’ve been married for 12 years. I was on the way to worse, but now I’m fixing the problems that I had. I don’t have the anger anymore.

Does your wife worry about you on the road?
My wife prays every day for me. I don’t think she worries because I’m in God’s hands. I tell everybody I have two codrivers, Walter Letterman and my savior, Jesus Christ. Wally is a Christian and we talk a lot about God and the Bible. We pray together whenever issues arise in our lives.

When I go to sleep, my life is in Wally’s hands, but he’s also in God’s hands. So I feel like we’re doubly protected.

Have you run into danger on the road before?

One time Wally was sleeping and I was driving when one truck hit another truck in front of me and turned sideways.

It was weird, it was like in slow motion, and I was able to brake and turn the truck to the right and go around him. Now, these tankers, you’re not supposed to turn when you brake, because the liquid you’re carrying can slosh and flip you over.

But if I didn’t, it would have killed me, because I stopped 10 feet from hitting the other trailer. I wasn’t sure if the slow motion was a miracle or if it was all in my mind. Afterward, I bought this dashboard camera, so if anything happened again I could replay the tape and see if a miracle occurred or not.

On August 11, 2014, something did happen again…
Every week I haul orange juice from Florida to California and bring lemon juice back. On our way to California, we stopped at a truck stop in Biloxi, Mississippi, and I took over driving the evening leg.

About 10 miles down the road, Wally has his shoes off and he’s sitting in the back of the cab getting ready to eat dinner. That’s when I see her—once again, in slow motion. Headlights going in the wrong direction. The car did a 180 and hit the truck in front of me. There was an explosion.

I got the truck stopped and Wally goes, “I think they’re all dead, dude.” I kind of agreed with him because all I could see was a burning fire.

But I said, “I’m going to go out there.”

Wally asked what I was going to do. I thought of the small fire extinguisher next to the driver’s seat. We live in these trucks, so there’s not room for anything bigger. It wasn’t really designed for a fire like this.

I grabbed it, pulled the pin, and started praying as I walked to the wreck. God, please let these people be all right. But I was thinking at least I would try to put out the fire so the bodies wouldn’t burn.

What happened next?
I saw an older lady, trying to kick the door open. It was jammed. I put a little effort into it and it came open naturally. Wally came up behind me with another gentleman.

He said, “I see a hand, it’s moving.” There was a little girl in back, the woman’s granddaughter. I stepped back and used the fire extinguisher to keep the flames back as the others got her out of the car. As soon as we got them out, the fire burned everything.

The little girl was squeezing Wally’s neck and he’s patting her on the back telling her everything will be okay. She didn’t want to let go. Somehow, she wasn’t burned. Her car seat was unbuckled and thrown to the driver’s side of the car, away from the flames. God’s got a plan for that little girl.

Weren’t you afraid of getting hurt?
It’s the most surreal thing. I was praying the whole time, and I didn’t feel the heat. I didn’t burn my hands. Wally asked me later if I knew what was all over the ground—I didn’t even smell the gasoline. It could have lit up and I’d have been burned alive.

The entire time I wasn’t afraid, but when I got back into the truck, I held my hands out and they were shaking. I was back to reality. As soon as the fire was out, I drove down the ramp, went around the accident, and kept going on down the highway.

You just went back to work?
I had somewhere to be. Our only stop was in Texas for a new fire extinguisher. Wally and I made the delivery in California. We didn’t tell anyone about what happened until later. I told my wife that night on the phone and e-mailed her and my three kids the video from my dashboard camera.

One of your sons uploaded that video to YouTube.
Logan did that. My son from a previous marriage. He spends too much time on the computer. But I was happy it had an impact on him.

He was born before I turned my life around. I pray all the time that God will help me claim back the relationship with Logan that I destroyed. I’ve seen a big change in him. Of course, the video made my kids think I’m a hero.

You don’t think you are?
People say we are heroes. We’re not. They say, once you got out and started helping, everybody else came. Maybe they were getting out of their trucks the same time as me. I would hope all of us would actually get out and do the same thing. It was the only choice.

I’m convinced God used me for a vessel that day. If we were 20 seconds earlier that car would have run into us. I believe that we were meant to be right behind them.

I think back to when I was fighting the Lord and my wife would come home and thank God for our paychecks. I was offended. What do you mean, thank God for our paychecks? I’m the one that got up, I’m the one that did this, I, I, I. Now I see what my wife is talking about.

Haven't seen David's heroics? Watch the video!

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