Dhaval Shah saw the fire that followed the early morning crash on Friday.
And, the Houston Chronicle reported, he saw something else, too: a child, who was running around and crying out.
Shah helped the boy, and came to the aid of his younger brother, a 2-year-old who was still near the wreckage of a truck that crashed on Interstate 45 at about 1:15 a.m. Friday.
“I was trembling – my legs and my whole body was shaking,” Shah told the newspaper. “The fire was so hot, and I just felt like something was going to explode. … If I was a couple minutes late, probably (the toddler) would’ve got burnt.”
That, according to reports and local authorities, was not the only act of heroism at the crash site.
The other involved the older of the two brothers, a boy who is just 5 years old.
The crash occurred when the driver of a tractor-trailer truck “failed to control his speed” and struck a guardrail and concrete pillar, according to a Houston Police Department news release. The truck rolled and caught fire.
The driver, who appeared to have been ejected during the crash, died at the scene, police say. His sons, ages 5 and 2, were passengers in the truck.
After the crash, the older brother pulled his younger sibling from the wreckage, authorities report.
“He helped us out a lot, to piece together a lot of things that we would not have known,” Sgt. James Roque said, according to KHOU.
Both brothers were taken to a hospital for treatment, according to the news release. The 2-year-old suffered severe burns, while the 5-year-old had minor injuries.
“He’s a trouper,” Roque told KPRC-TV, speaking of the 5-year-old. “He was ejected, and he was sitting down and talking to us. Giving us everyone’s name, his little brother’s name, was asking about his father.”
Roque told KPRC-TV that according to the 5-year-old, the family was moving to Galveston. The father was driving the moving truck when the crash occurred.
Shah, the 20-year-old college student who helped in the rescue, on Friday afternoon told The Washington Post in a phone interview that he was sleeping when he heard a loud noise. After he saw the fire out of a window, Shah said, he went to investigate. As soon as he got outside, though, he was met with “pitch-black smoke in the air.”
“And then I got closer, and I saw a little kid, just running around over there, yelling. I didn’t know what was going on,” Shah said. “I was trying to think why he was there. It quickly popped into my mind (that) he must be in that accident, and no one is here at all.”
Shah said he ran across the street and grabbed the child, who told him that he was trying to save his father.
“He asked me to go get him,” Shah said. “I looked and he pointed, and I saw his dad being burned alive. And then I saw a little infant right there by the fire, in front of the truck.”
Another man walked up, Shah said. Together, they went to grab the boy’s younger brother, Shah sticking with the 5-year-old. The pair walked the children away from the fire, and Shah said the 5-year-old continued to talk about his dad.
“I felt really bad,” he said.
Hours after the incident, Shah struggled to the find the words to explain what he had witnessed.
“Witnessing such a big tragedy right under your eyes, it’s a big thing,” he said. “Those kids, I can’t imagine their life going forward without their dad. And losing him in such a way, I can’t even imagine. They’re really strong. Going to be really strong.”