LOS ANGELES – Most of the people who rushed toward the derailed train were backing off, too afraid of the flames and the spilled diesel to try to save the pleading man trapped in the tangled wreckage.
Dean Jaeschke (search), though, jumped in to help. He knew what it was like to burn.
Years ago, strangers rescued Jaeschke from a car accident that seared and scarred his body.
"Everybody was saying, 'Get out of there. That thing's going go up.' I kind of ignored that," Jaeschke, 50, told the Associated Press in an interview Thursday. "I've been through that."
The trapped man, Scott McKeown (search), died soon after Jaeschke freed him — but lived long enough to thank rescuers for not letting him burn alive.
McKeown was one of 11 people killed Wednesday in suburban Glendale (search) after a man allegedly abandoned his SUV on the tracks and caused two commuter trains to collide in the deadliest U.S. rail accident in nearly six years.
The rescue was one of many heroic moments by workers who were at the loading dock of a nearby Costco and scrambled to save people from the smoky chaos.
Those who lingered at the scene spoke reverently of the truck driver who regularly delivered ice cream to the warehouse but on this day risked his life. Meanwhile, Jaeschke slipped back into anonymity, driving 90 miles back to Southwest Traders Inc., the delivery company in Temecula where he has worked for 20 years.
Jaeschke's own traumatic memories were fresh Wednesday as bystanders approached the train wreck with fire extinguishers.
At 17, Jaeschke was nearly killed in a crash while returning home from Las Vegas with his brother and father. The driver lost control and the car hurtled off the road, flipping seven times. Jaeschke, who had been sleeping in the back, was thrown from the car, which then landed on him. Hot oil spilled over his body.
Strangers from another car pulled him out, he said. He spent months in the hospital, emerging with scars on his face, chest and arms. He underwent 40 operations.
The man Jaeschke pulled out Wednesday was covered in blood and soot and pinned down, Jaeschke and others said. In the early morning darkness, Jaeschke climbed up several feet of wreckage to find him. It appeared his arms and legs were broken.
"He just said, 'Get me out of here, I don't want to burn,"' Jaeschke recalled. He said he told others two or three times, "I need some help up here."
Hugo Moran, a 34-year-old Costco receiving clerk who helped pull several people to safety, said: "We all backed off because there was fuel everywhere."
Jaeschke persisted and McKeown grabbed his coat. "I said, 'I'm getting you out of here,"' Jaeschke said. But McKeown was stuck. Another driver jumped in to help, and they pulled him out.
"He didn't moan, he didn't scream," Jaeschke said. "I know he wasn't in pain. I want his wife and family to know that."
Twelve hours later, Jaeschke was at home, resting for his 4 a.m. Thursday delivery rounds.
"It really shook him up," his wife, Deborah, said from their home in Winchester. "It takes a lot to make that man cry, and when he came home, he was crying."