Man who survived fiery crash on I-5 near Albany shares story for - KPTV - FOX 12

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Man who survived fiery crash on I-5 near Albany shares story for first time

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TJ Shaw recovering at the Oregon Burn Center Monday. (KPTV) TJ Shaw recovering at the Oregon Burn Center Monday. (KPTV)
Shaw (left) with the man credited with saving his life. (KPTV) Shaw (left) with the man credited with saving his life. (KPTV)
Photo: Oregon State Police Photo: Oregon State Police
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

He survived a fiery crash along Interstate 5 thanks to a brave man who pulled him from the flames, and now, TJ Shaw is sharing his incredible story for the first time with FOX 12

Shaw is a truck driver from California who was heading to Portland for a delivery on the evening of Aug. 31. He was on northbound I-5 near Albany when he crashed just after midnight on Sept. 1.

“Everything seemed like it was going good, I didn’t feel tired at all, I just happened to doze off for just a second, that’s all it took,” he said.

The rumble strips woke him up, but he was heading right for a concrete pillar underneath an overpass and never had time to hit the brakes.

“When I came to, I was basically sitting in the cab, the cab was on the ground, wheels, everything else was gone. The door’s gone, the roof’s gone, and everything around me was on fire,” Shaw said.

He only remembers bits and pieces of that night, like being trapped under his seat belt and seeing a car stop nearby.

The next thing he knew, he was in an ambulance heading to the Oregon Burn Center with burns over a quarter of his body.

He needed skin grafts from his right hand all the way up to his shoulder, and his left arm was burned too.

But looking at the pictures of the fiery wreckage, it’s amazing he survived at all.

As he later learned, a man named Chuck Zeitler pulled him from the flames that night. Zeitler has since visited Shaw in the hospital a few times and helped fill in some of the blanks from that night.

“I thought he was the person in the car that I saw stop, and he explained no, he was coming the other direction on his motorcycle and he actually talked to that person, and that person said the flames are too hot, I can’t get to him,” Shaw said in tears. “He was like no, I’ve got to help him.”

Zeitler – a 24-year Navy veteran – risked his own life to save Shaw, and even spent a few days in the hospital himself with smoke inhalation.

Shaw calls Zeitler a hero, and his angel here on earth.

Now, after spending more than three weeks at the burn center, Shaw gets to go home to California on Tuesday to be with his wife, two kids and three grandkids.

“It would have been really hard on my family, if something other than this would have happened,” Shaw said of the likelihood of his death had it not been for Zeitler.

Shaw and his family help foster older dogs and he can’t wait to get back to it.

“I think that’s the other reason I’m here,” he said. “It just wasn’t my time and I’ve got more animals to save.”

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