Valley resident credits SRP employee with saving his life
Flynt Smith was on his way to his parent’s house, looking forward to spending a relaxing Memorial Day weekend with his wife and eight children.
Just as Smith, a senior engineer at Coronado Generating Station near St. Johns, Arizona, steered the family van out of the Salt River Canyon toward Globe, he came upon an accident — an overturned tractor-trailer gasoline tanker.
Smoke poured out from the back of the truck. Gasoline flowed down the side of the road. It sounded like a heavy downpour, Smith recalled. One spark could have ignited the vehicle and the surrounding area.
Buckeye resident Travis Jones had been on his way to deliver 8,500 gallons of premium gasoline to a gas station in Snowflake, when halfway on a downhill grade through the Salt River Canyon, his brakes went out.
Jones pressed the emergency brake, but that didn’t help.
“I’m flying downhill, trying to stop the truck, but I’m going at least 55 mph on a 25 mph two-lane highway,” Jones recalled.
The truck fell over on its side, the front windshield shattered, and Jones was knocked unconscious. Jones was trapped, with his legs pinned underneath the steering wheel and his left arm stuck outside the window, severely fractured.
Smith heard bystanders urging the driver to get out. He used his wife’s cellphone as a flashlight to check on the driver, even as other cars were coming around the corner at full speed, driving through the flowing gas, spraying it on top of cars.
“I was scared and thought of getting my family out first, because of all the smoke and fuel out there, but then I said a quick prayer, and I felt strongly that I needed to stay and help,” Smith said, his voice choking as he retold the story.
Another passerby crawled into the truck to get Jones out, but his arm wouldn’t come unstuck.
Then, somehow, Jones’ arm got unpinned on its own, and Smith, who had also wedged his way in, freed Jones’ legs. Both Smith and the other man pulled Jones out through the missing front windshield, and carried him to safety.
For his bravery, Smith was recently awarded the SRP Service to Mankind Award, SRP’s top honor for individual safety valor.
“I was embarrassed, frankly, with all the attention,” said Smith, who described it as a scary, traumatic experience. “All I know is that as much as I feared for the safety of my family, I knew I couldn’t leave him there by himself.”
Jones, who is still recovering from his injuries, said he will forever be grateful to Smith.
“He says it’s not a big deal, but he risked everything for me and my family,” said the married father of two young children, a 5-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. “I lost 8,500 gallons of fuel, but not my life.”
Featured photos (L to R): Travis Jones with his two children share a special thank you message for Flynt Smith. SRP’s Deputy General Manager, Resources and Finance, awards Smith the Service to Mankind Award.