Goodyear man braves flames to save man trapped in truck

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A Goodyear man saved the life of a Mesa father trapped in the cab of a burning truck Friday.

Nick Comeione said instinct took over when he saw three people trying to kick out the windshield to free the driver of a semitrailer that had overturned on Interstate 10 near Buckeye Road in Phoenix.

However, what brought him to the truck many, including Comeione, would call "fate."

Comeione, a sprinkler inspector and repairman for Phoenix-based Sun Devil Fire Equipment Inc., never intended to be driving on I-10 at 10 a.m. that morning. A trainee had been late that morning. As Comeione headed back to the office to pick him up in between calls, he hit a wall of traffic on I-10 and saw a truck on its side up ahead.

"Out of curiosity, or something, I decided to drive up the emergency lane to see if I could help out," the 47-year-old said. "I didn't know if I should get near it."

Comeione said he does not remember grabbing a 6-foot-long, 2-inch-wide heavy steel pipe from his truck. He does recall running to the burning truck, feeling the intense heat from the flames and hefting the pipe to break the windshield.

"It's somebody's life. It could have been me in there," Comeione said. "I took one swing at the top right part of the passenger side of the windshield and it ripped out."

Jose Monges, screaming in pain, crawled out the truck and his saviors helped him to the side of the road. A moment later - something behind the cab, probably the gas tank, exploded, Comeione said.

Arizona Department of Public Safety officers at the scene called Comeione, who suffered minor burns on his arms and forehead, a hero.

"I didn't feel like hero," Comeione said in a phone interview Monday morning. "But yesterday - it felt like a different story."

On Sunday, Comeione visited Monges at the Arizona Burn Center at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix. Comeione said many of Monges' family embraced him, thanked him and now call him "family."

"He [Monges] said when the window broke he felt cool air and, for some reason, it felt like somebody shoved him out of the truck," Comeione said. "It gives me goose bumps thinking about it."

Monges's only brother, Eric, told Comeione how grateful he was that his only son could see his sole uncle again.

"There are no words ... what he did. He saved my bother's life," Eric Monges said. "He's an incredible person."

Monges is recuperating in the hospital for an unknown length of time. His family said that while he is still in pain, he was able to get up and walk a bit Sunday night. The father of two girls, ages 1 and 4, will have skin grafts, Eric Monges said.

Some of Monges's family members were stunned to learn Comeione's name. While his given name is John, he goes by his middle name Nicholas, Nick for short.

A year ago, one of Monges' children died. His name was Nick.

"I think it was someone up above, pushing me to drive up there," Comeione said. "I think his son wanted his dad to live."

Rebecca I. Allen can be reached by e-mail at rallen@westvalleyview.com.


By: 
Rebecca I. Allen
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