Local News

'Good Samaritan' pulls man from fiery I-40 wreck

Posted January 29, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

— The North Carolina Highway Patrol says a Sanford man might not be alive today if it weren't for Clay Roberson. The former University of North Carolina football player pulled garbage-truck driver Robert Jay Leffer from a fiery, five-vehicle wreck on Interstate 40 this week.

Sanford man pulled from fiery wreck Sanford man pulled from fiery wreck

The wreck began when Osmar Guillermo Perez Vicente, 28, cut across several lanes of eastbound traffic trying to exit onto Wade Avenue on Monday night, witnesses said. His Isuzu SUV clipped a tractor-trailer, which lost control and rolled onto the shoulder. Vicente then swerved and hit a minivan, tossing that vehicle into a garbage truck that was going west.

The garbage truck overturned and caught on fire, and that was motorist Roberson sprang into action.

"I was just instinct. It just kicked in. I had to go over there and check to see if he was OK," Roberson said.

Roberson pulled Leffer, 48, out of the burning truck.

"He (Leffer) was already on fire. I think with the air and everything, he just lit up. It was like a torch," Roberson said.

Leffer was taken to the Jaycees Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill that night and was listed in critical condition Thursday with extensive burns.

Roberson met with Leffer's family Thursday afternoon. They wanted to thank him for his bravery.

"If I was in that truck, I would've wanted someone to come to me," Roberson said.

"He has my full support. I'm always going to be praying for him. My family's going to be praying for him. If they need me, I'm definitely there for him," Roberson said.

Vicente was listed in good condition at WakeMed Thursday. Trooper Beckley Vaughan of the North Carolina Highway Patrol said that after Vicente is released from the hospital, he will face charges of careless and reckless driving and operating without a license.

Vaughan said troopers also intend to investigate whether Vicente is in the United States legally. Vicente does not speak English and told investigators, via a translator, that he has been in the U.S. looking for work for two years.

The other people involved in the wreck had minor injures and were not hospitalized.

Roberson played linebacker for the Tar Heels, redshirted in 1998 and playing until 2003.


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  • hralex Jan 30, 2009

    For the love of GOD....get rid of the illegals....on our dime, raping and murdering and driving illegally...and extremely drunk most of the time. Sure America is a "melting pot" but to those who contribute and not drain. We need assets...not more liabilities...it infuriates me and most anyone who lives here.

  • housemanagercary Jan 30, 2009

    Ditto Ditto Ditto!!

    Thanks for reporting this side of the story too. I think we all needed to hear this. Thanks Clay.

  • bettyboopr2 Jan 30, 2009

    What a true hero.

    Now we need to get rid of all the illegals in this country. Enough of non driving, no insurance paying people. Quit living on my dime.

  • tangerine Jan 30, 2009

    Its nice to know that there are still honorable folks, looking out for others, not just for themselves. God Bless Clay Roberson.

  • CestLaVie Jan 30, 2009

    Thank you, kind sir. You are a fine example for our human race, and everyone sure appreciates your attitude and service to others. I applaud you.

  • ccs1920 Jan 29, 2009

    Good job. I wish more were like you.

  • bigredtruckman Jan 29, 2009

    Mr. Roberson, you demonstrated what is good about America. You really did a selfless and fearless act and saved a complete stranger's life. For that, we all thank you.

  • Feisty R Diva - Cowgirl Up Jan 29, 2009

    Mr Roberson - you ARE awesome!

    Illegal aliens - go home to your own countries. Too many darn traffic accidents and crimes are occurring from those who are here illegally and should not even be here. ENOUGH! The government needs to help our economy and clean up our streets - deporting illegals does both, especially those not working. How are they living?? Government handouts. Shame when an illegal alien has more right and benefits in this country than its citizens.

  • teach4ever67 Jan 29, 2009

    This is what we need - more GREAT stories about GREAT people. Each day we focus on the negatives that exist... our young people need to see and hear more GREAT stories like this.

    May GOD bless you and your family and watch over the man whose life you saved....

  • bomanicous Jan 29, 2009

    Way to go Clay, you're a true hero!!!