A March 12 accident on Interstate 10 could have turned out very differently for Houston’s  Sylvia Hayenga, had it not been for Orange’s Richard Durkin.

Hayenga lost control of her car, which then flipped onto the driver’s side and burst into flames. Durkin, also traveling the road, drove up behind her. The car had already started to burn, and Durkin pulled Hayenga out and away from the vehicle. By that time, the fire was “fully involved,” to use a firefighter’s term. The McLewis Fire Department and other agencies responded to the fire.

For the first time in its history, the department presented a special award to Durkin. Officials said that Durkin went “beyond the call of duty” for a citizen, recognizing that the fire could have killed him too. Durkin said he didn’t even think about the consequences while rescuing Hayenga.

At the time of the accident, Hayenga was talking with her son on a cellphone, and Durkin was able to get the phone and tell him that Hayenga had been in a wreck but that help was on the way.

At the award ceremony, Hayenga was able to thank Durkin personally. Her son also attended the presentation.

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