Steven Parker was driving on I-40 on May 20 when he witnessed a wreck. A car speeding down the interstate in the wrong direction slammed head-on into another vehicle near Clayton.
The second vehicle flipped several times, and Blake Leonard, 21, ripped through his seat belt and was thrown from the vehicle.
"It was probably one of the most horrible things I've ever seen in my life," said Parker, who pulled off I-40 and ran over to help.
"The only thing I remember from as soon as the wreck happened was pretty much just picking my leg up off the ground and holding it," Leonard said.
Parker grabbed a pair of jeans from the wrecked car, tied it around Leonard's leg and used his fist to make a tourniquet. He slowed the blood flow and kept Leonard calm until paramedics arrived.
"He was obviously a young kid, and all I could think about was, if I don't stop this bleeding, he's going to die right here in front of me," Parker said.
He credited his childhood experience as a Boy Scout for knowing what to do. Special Forces paramedics from Fort Bragg taught his troop first aid, he said.
"After it was all said and done, I was shaking," he said of his roadside experience. "I don't know how you keep it together with something like that other than the fact that someone else is depending on you."
Leonard's leg had to be amputated, and he underwent 10 surgeries during a 41-day stay in the hospital. But he and his mother credit Parker with keeping him alive.
"We consider the guy who saved Blake's life to be an angel," said Leonard's mother, Martha Lancaster. "He is our all-time hero in this."
Leonard and Lancaster said they have spoken to Parker on the phone and hope to meet him in person. In the meantime, Leonard is learning to walk again with a prosthetic leg.
"If he hadn't done it, I wouldn't be here ... right now," Leonard said.
But Parker dismissed the hero talk.
"I think the real heroes would be like the paramedics and the doctors who actually did save his life. I might have bought him a little bit of time," he said.