Man survives being trapped under tractor-trailer in crash

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WATERVLIET, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A 28-year-old man was trapped in a sports car, crushed under a 45,000 pounds tractor-trailer, and lived to talk about it.

“I remember everything,” Jelani Reyes-Craig said. “It was a flour truck, so there was flour and smoke from the engine bay pouring into the car. so I’m choking, gasping for air.”

Through the whole fiasco, he remained calm. Once he managed to elbow a hole through the debris, the smoke cleared.   

That’s when he said he cut himself out of his seatbelt and wiggled over to the passenger side to try to get more space.

“I remember hearing someone scream ‘Don’t go under that truck!’ and these two gentlemen didn’t care,” he recalled. “They went and grabbed the jaws of life and came under the truck to come get me.”

One of those gentlemen was Lieutenant Jim Strock with the Watervliet Fire Department.  He told NEWS10 ABC he pulled up to the wreck bracing himself and his crew for the worst.

“Survivability rate on this is zero. No way is this guy alive. Then they said, ‘He’s talking.’ I’m like, no way. I go around the car and I yell in ‘Hey bud.’ He goes ‘Dude, can you take my picture? This is unbelievable.’ And I’m like, what,” said Lt. Strock. 

While there was some initial shock, Reyes-Craig was somehow not only alive, but barely injured. So while he patiently waited for the firefighters to free him, he pulled out his phone and started recording the incredible rescue.

Then he made an important phone call.

“He told me, ‘I need you to stay calm. I’m crushed under something in the car on 787,'” said his girlfriend, Kaylea.

She said she immediately left work and drove to the scene.

“It was one of the scariest moments ever,” she said. “They had me stopped and they said they’re trying to get him out of the car now. He’s a lucky man.”

Reyes-Craig miraculously walked away from that wreck with a few stitches in his hand and a couple of missing teeth.

“I would say the scariest moment was in the hospital when I was getting stitches. I don’t do really well with open wounds,” he said.

First responders were relieved that what they thought would be a recovery effort turned out to be a rescue to be proud of.

“He walks out of the car and he’s high-fiving us on the way to the hospital. Unbelievable. Unbelievable,” said Lt. Strock.  

Reyes-Craig said it’s something he’ll never forget.

“They went beyond the line of duty to do their job, and I’m really grateful for it,” he said. 

So far, police have not said how the crash happened or if any tickets were issued. The driver of the truck was reportedly uninjured. 

A number of local agencies played a role in the intricate extrication, including Watervliet Fire Department and Watervliet Police Department, Troy Rescue Squad, and New York State Police.

“Airbags” were deployed to help raise the trailer for extrication purposes. Reyes-Craig was taken to Samaritan Hospital to be treated for minor injuries but has since been released.

The tractor-trailer was finally towed away from the scene about six hours later. 

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