Staff Photo: Josh Green Veteran UPS driver Dale Simmons is recognized Thursday by Fire Department and Gwinnett government officials for pulling a woman from a burning vehicle in August. Emergency responders on scene credit Simmons with saving the woman's life. Surrounding Simmons is Gwinnett County Administrator Glenn Stephens, Fire Chief Bill Myers, wife Lenora Simmons and their son, age 7.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Dale Simmons had to act fast, and he knew it. He parked at the fringes of the accident scene and surveyed: A concrete truck lay on its side, having essentially rolled over and crushed a Lexus passenger car like an aluminum can. Flames from the car's engine licked the undercarriage. The driver wasn't moving.
Tall with an athletic build, Simmons exited his delivery truck and leapt into action. Instead of a cape, he wore UPS brown.
What transpired in the ensuing minutes of Aug. 25, on U.S. Highway 29 between Lawrenceville and Dacula, earned Simmons, 39, a Hampton father of three with 20 years of driving under his belt, high praise from Gwinnett County Fire Department brass and government leaders Thursday.
Descriptors for Simmons ranged from "selfless" to "heroic" in describing how he pulled the unidentified woman driving the Lexus to safety. "No doubt she would have been dead," said Fire Department spokesman Capt. Thomas Rutledge, "had (Simmons) not been there."
With traffic flowing around the crash scene, Simmons first checked to see if the truck's passengers were OK; they were. Smoke towered from the Lexus as he approached. He asked the woozy driver if she could move her hands, her feet.
"I guess she was a little delusional from hitting the airbag," Simmons recalled. "I said, 'We have to get you out of this car now, because it's on fire.'"
Flames encroached on the car's cabin as Simmons pulled the driver out and carried her to the curb as paramedics arrived. Though firefighters returning from another call arrived on scene quickly, the Lexus was an inferno.
"It was a pretty ugly looking call when we pulled up on it," said Firefighter Blake McArthur.
Simmons, who coincidentally delivers Fire Department headquarters' supplies on his Lawrenceville route, returned to his job and family with nary a self-congratulatory word. His wife, Lenora, only realized the magnitude of his actions when she saw a story about Simmons on UPS' website.
"Even when this happened, he never told anybody -- I told everybody," Lenora said. "He's just a very unselfish person, very generous; everybody knows him for being that way."
On his route, where Simmons has seen a fair share of crashes, he lives by the Golden Rule. If he sees distress, he imagines a member of his family in whatever the situation may he. Thus, he called his actions in August merely instinctual.
Dabbing at minor flesh wounds, the driver thanked him and was carted away. Simmons hasn't seen her since, he said.
Asked to summarize her feelings, eldest daughter Brittany Simmons, 17, said of her father: "He's my hero."