(Update: adding video, new info, comments from Lascurain)
Gabriel Lascurain says scene looked like something out of a movie, but felt nothing like it
SISTERS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Gabriel Lascurain still cannot believe what happened, but it's a night he'll never forget. The shuttle driver for Bend's B&R Auto Wrecking was on his usual route along Highway 126 toward Eugene early Monday morning when he spotted a crashed car engulfed in flames over the embankment, with a young man and woman trapped inside, screaming for help.
Lascurain said he wasn't sure what was happening at first, but realized fairly quickly this was a 'fight or flight' moment - and at 2:15 a.m., the 43-year-old Redmond man decided he had to fight.
He jumped over the embankment and, using the tools in his tow truck, managed to pull the two occupants from the car, just moments before it exploded.
"Nothing like how movies depict it," Lascurain told NewsChannel 21 Wednesday. "It was so much harder to actually deal with, physically, no matter how strong I was, and emotionally. The thoughts and decisions I had to make at a split-second -- I had to just put myself aside and say, 'I have to do this.'"
Lascurain saved the lives of those two young people, but almost lost his own in the process.
"There was a moment when I literally thought, 'I might die,'" Lascurain recalled. "'If I get close enough to that car right now, if I got back and get him, I'll die.'"
However, Lascurain said giving up just wasn't an option, especially knowing what was at stake -- two lives.
"I was just kind of holding (the female's) face, and just trying to comfort her, and she reminded me of my daughter," Lascurain said. "She was a blondie -- my daughter is a blondie. I'm thinking, 'Father's Day is coming up. I couldn't imagine losing a child this close to Father's Day.'"
Oregon State Police said the two Bend residents were heading back home from Eugene when the female driver fell asleep and ran off the road. Both were injured and taken by ambulances to St. Charles Bend. Sources close to those involved told NewsChannel 21 the injuries were serious, but non-life-threatening, and both are in fair condition.
Lascurain said he believes if he'd arrived at the crash scene near Sahalie Falls just a couple of minutes earlier, he wouldn't have noticed the flames. And if he was one minute later, they might have already been dead. He wasn't even supposed to be there at that time, but his only guess is that it was meant to be.
"There's got to be a purpose I guess," Lascurain joked. "I don't know. I don't know. I'm just grateful that I was there. It makes no sense how I was there right at that exact same minute, right on time. Why did I leave early that morning? Why did I stop -- make that one stop before I even got to that point on the road? Why? There's a whole bunch of whys, but it all worked out."
Lascurain doesn't consider himself a hero, but that's what his coworkers, and other people in the community, are calling him now.