When Lodi resident Brian Watts watched a car slam into a dump truck Wednesday morning, he did not continue on his commute like dozens of other drivers. He stopped.
"There are some people who drive by, and there are some people who stop," he said. "I'm a stopper."
Watts ended up single-handedly rescuing a man from a dump truck engulfed in flames.
Around 10 a.m., Watts was driving west on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd./Charter Way on his way to work. The 37-year-old was driving behind a dump truck when a sedan going east veered into their lane, striking the truck.
The truck turned on its passenger side, sliding up the hill and coming to rest with the driver still trapped inside.
Watts was able to slam on his brakes and call 911. He then realized fuel was leaking from the dump truck and its engine was on fire, starting to burn a nearby tree. The driver was yelling for help.
"I thought, 'If there is anybody in here, then let's get them out of here.' My first thought was the safety of any survivors, No. 1," he said.
Watts took a metal brake stick from his truck, which he uses at his job as a conductor for Union Pacific, and started to bash on the windshield, trying to break it, but was unsuccessful.
When he noticed the truck driver was yelling for help and kicking the driver's side door, he used the brake stick, which is metal and looks similar to an ax, to hook onto the door and help pull it open.
Then, he climbed up onto the wreck — which was still on fire — to help the man.
"I grabbed his forearm, he grabbed mine," Watts said. "He pushed, I pulled," he said.
Once the driver was out of the truck, he wanted to immediately sit down.
"I said, 'No man, the truck is on fire. We gotta go,'" he said.
They sat down near Watts' truck and he checked the man for injuries. Then he went to check on the driver of the sedan.
The man was non-responsive, and Watts did not feel a pulse on his carotid artery. The man was taken to a hospital but died, according to CBS 13.
Watts continued to pull debris out of the way as motorists continued to drive by. He spoke with the police and then got back into his own car to drive to his job.
When he got to work, his boss gave him some time to decompress.
"The adrenaline was still pumping. I just kind of was reflecting, 'Wow, what just happened? The immensity,''' Watts said. "I helped someone out, yes, but somebody lost a life this morning. That's horrible."
Watts trained at Columbia College to become a firefighter, but ended up taking a job with the railroad.
While working as a conductor, he has accidentally struck 10 people who were standing on the tracks during his 13-year career, and each time, he gets three days off to deal with trauma.
"The situations I've been in with the railroad have helped me considerably to learn how to deal with an incident. Everything that I'm feeling is totally natural. It's OK to feel happy, angry, or feel joy or sadness. You need to let yourself feel and experience that now," he said.
It wasn't until Thursday that he fully realized how close the accident was.
"In hindsight, my thought was, 'Man, that could've been me,'" he said.
Since Wednesday, Watts has received a barrage of text and Facebook messages saying he's a hero. But he feels like he did nothing different than what police officers, firefighters and paramedics would do.
"People say, 'Brian, you're a hero,' and I'm like, 'Really?' I only did what our men and women do in the fire department everyday," he said.