Michael Pierce was on his way to visit his son in the the hospital when he crashed his pickup truck into the back end of an 18-wheeler on Interstate 20 near Wilson Road in Terrell on Tuesday.
Pierce was trapped in his car, with flames growing around him.
"That's when I started asking God, 'Please, please don't let me burn to death,'" said Pierce from his hospital bed at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas Friday afternoon. "I started asking God, 'Help. Help. Please send me somebody.'"
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Pierce said his prayers were answered when a sheriff's deputy and army of good Samaritans seemingly showed up out of nowhere.
"When I first showed up, I felt useless," said Kaufman County Sheriff's Deputy Conner Martin. "We're not firemen. We don't carry fire extinguishers."
But a good Samaritan who stopped to help did have fire extinguishers. Someone else had water. Others held doors open to vent the billowing smoke. They were all answers to Pierce's prayers.
"I prayed to God to give me help and get me out of there," Pierce said over the phone from his hospital bed. "That was close. Real close."
Martin went into the burning car, trying to lift the steering wheel that had pinned Pierce in his seat.
"The steering wheel wasn't moving and the flames started to come in on the floorboard down at his feet where his legs were trapped," Martin explained. "I was aware of the danger. I really wasn't scared."
Martin said at least four times he got out of the pickup to take a breath, then went back in to try to free Pierce, never giving up. His body camera recorded the dramatic rescue.
"Three seconds and I would have been burned up in that seat," said Pierce choking back tears. "I just can't believe I was that close."
"I think I got lucky and I was in the right place at the right time to be able to help him," Martin said, insisting he was not a hero. "I know many other deputies here would do the same thing."
"I'd like people to know there are people around who care," Pierce said.
"I'm glad he made it out," Martin said. "That makes me happy."
Pierce hopes to be out of the hospital in time to celebrate his birthday later this month. There is a GoFundMe page set up to help with expenses as he recovers.