From a distance, Devin Koehler thought he was seeing the dust trail of a truck turning off a dirt road and onto the highway.
As he drove closer, Koehler realized what he was actually seeing: smoke. A flatbed welding truck was engulfed in flames roaring high above the cab. It had crashed headfirst into an armored money truck that wasn’t on fire — yet.
Koehler parked 30 feet away, called 911 and hurried toward the scene. The roaring fire made it impossible to rescue the driver of the welding truck, a 36-year-old man Koehler was later told had died instantly.
But the fire was threatening the armored truck, and Koehler suspected there might be survivors inside. Risking his own safety, Koehler approached the armored vehicle and found two men inside, ages 30 and 27.
“I hoped everyone could stay in their location until EMS arrived,” Koehler says, “but with the fire endangering the Loomis driver and passenger, I knew I had to get them out.”
And so he did. When sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and paramedics arrived, they thanked Koehler for his quick thinking and bravery.
A sheriff’s deputy later told Koehler that if he had not been there, both men would’ve been killed in the ensuing explosions.
“I stopped and helped because of my training in Scouting,” Koehler says. “A Scout is kind and helpful. These guys needed help, and it was my duty to help.”
Koehler joined Scouting as a fifth-grade Webelos, earned his Arrow of Light and then moved into a Boy Scout troop. He became an Eagle Scout with Troop 381 of New Braunfels, Texas, part of the Alamo Area Council. He went on to earn 10 Eagle Palms as a Scout and then joined Venturing, the BSA’s program for older youth, until he turned 21.
For the past 20 years, Koehler has been serving Scouting as a professional. His current role is as Scout Executive of the Texas Southwest Council, based in San Angelo.
In fact, Koehler was on his way to meet some BSA volunteers when he was called into action unexpectedly. We contacted Koehler to learn more.
‘A big cloud of smoke’
On July 8, Koehler was traveling west on U.S. Highway 67 near the West Texas city of Rankin.
He was headed to meet with some Scouting volunteers in Fort Stockton, Texas. That’s when he saw what first looked like a dust cloud on the road ahead.
“As I got closer, I noticed there was a big cloud of smoke and something big in the road,” Koehler wrote in his witness report for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Koehler was the first person to arrive at the crash site. Another car didn’t pass by for at least four to six minutes, Koehler says.
“My first thought was calling 911 to get help with the fire and medical support,” Koehler says. “Then I wanted to make sure everyone was OK and see what kind of medical needs they had.”
Approaching the scene
Koehler looked first at the welding truck, but the flames were so intense that Koehler knew he couldn’t help anyone in that vehicle without getting badly injured.
So he ran to the armored truck, banged on the doors and shouted: “Is everyone OK?”
No response. He banged harder.
The passenger responded weakly, saying he couldn’t get out of the door on his side. Koehler suggested he try the back door and met him there to help him down.
“I assessed his injuries, which included bleeding from the head,” Koehler says.
As the fire raged, Koehler did not administer first aid to the passenger and instead focused on the driver.
“There were a few explosions from the welding truck, and the fire was now under the hood of the armored truck,” Koehler says. “I knew I had to get the driver out.”
Koehler helped the driver, now half awake, get out of the truck. The man’s legs appeared broken, so Koehler put his arms under the driver’s armpits and pulled him out.
Koehler heard another explosion and now worried that the two men weren’t far enough away from the crash site. He helped the passenger to his feet and guided him to a safer spot. He then returned to the driver and dragged him to safety.
A hero’s welcome
Minutes later, a sheriff’s deputy arrived to take control of the scene. He was followed by paramedics and firefighters.
Koehler’s job was done. Once the situation was under control, a deputy told Koehler that his actions saved two lives.
The two men from the armored truck were taken to nearby hospitals. The passenger was released to recover from his head injuries. The driver is still in the hospital recovering from broken bones and a bruised face.
After the crash, Koehler got a call from the manager of the armored truck company where the two survivors work.
“He thanked me for stopping and saving their people,” Koehler says. “He mentioned they’re writing a thank-you letter.”
But Koehler didn’t do this for credit. He did it because he’s a Scout.
“A Scout is helpful,” he says. “A Scout is prepared to use their knowledge learned in Scouting.”
Thanks to Harold Sharp, the volunteer president of the Texas Southwest Council, for the tip.
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