By Jimmie Ferguson
Killeen Daily Herald
The man who burned to death Friday in a truck south of Killeen has been identified as Donald R. Simmons, 74, of Killeen, said a Killeen police spokeswoman.
"However, the cause of death is pending the toxicology results that could take up to six weeks," said Carroll Smith, the spokeswoman.
The manner in which Simmons died filled a witness' weekend with nightmares and thoughts of what else he could have done to save his life.
"It's hard. It's hard to see a guy that's alive, and within five minutes he's melting into nothing," said Daniel "Danny" Anglin, 49, of Killeen, who resides on Reese Creek Road near the intersection of State Highways 201 and 195, where the accident occurred.
Killeen police reported that for unknown reasons, Simmons' 2002 Chevrolet 1500 pickup left the roadway and traveled across the field. Once the firefighters arrived, the truck was engulfed in flames. After the fire was doused, Simmons' body was found inside the cab of the pickup, Smith said.
"I'm sure this guy had kids, a wife and grandkids," Anglin said. "I'm sure that he had some existence and wouldn't want it to sound like he tried to kill himself. It hurts me because I have been blaming myself ... that I didn't do something else to get him out ... to help him, said Anglin, noting that he and his wife were the first ones on the scene and called 911.
Anglin said they were on their way into Killeen to pick up their children and had just turned onto State Highway 201, heading east. He said he saw white smoke and assumed it was just a grass fire. When he pointed it out to his wife, she spotted the truck and the fire around it. He drove down off the road and down an embankment and parked the car. He said he had to jump a fence to get to the burning truck.
"My wife was on the north side of the fence and I was on the south side of it, and she kept hollering out, Is anybody in there?'" said Anglin, noting he located the man inside the truck and let his wife know.
Anglin said the man was a white male between the ages of the late 60s to mid- to late 70s.
"He was not Hispanic as previously reported," Anglin said. "He had a handicap blue placard in the rearview mirror."
Anglin said when Simmons whom he did not know at the time drove off the hill and tangled in the fence, he had been sitting there for quite a while.
"He didn't try to move the truck in or out or anything else," Anglin said. "I am guessing he passed out or could have had a heart attack that caused him to be unconscious, if you will.
"When I got down there, there were no spin-out marks to show he was trying to get out when you are stuck," Anglin said. "I believe because of the grass and the catalytic converter heated up, the truck caught on fire."
Anglin said the fire started in the area of the truck's catalytic converter, not in the back of the truck, as previously reported.
"The guy never once got out of the truck," said Anglin, who at one point was the only person outside of the truck. "So, all these stories about him walking around his truck and whatever else never happened."
Anglin said he tried to pull Simmons out with one hand while he was talking to the 911 operator on the phone. Simmons resisted.
"It wasn't that he was saying, no, no, I don't want to get out.' It was as if you were sitting in your car in a parking lot with the windows rolled down and I reach my hand to save you because there was a fire and you don't see it," Anglin explained. "The first thing you are going to do is protect yourself. That's what he was actually doing ... fighting people off."
Anglin said he was joined by three Hispanic men, and he backed off still talking to the 911 operator.
"No sooner they go in, they came right back out," Anglin said. "Well, they were illegals, and as soon as they heard the sirens, they took off. Now, I was stuck there again by myself."
In the meantime, Anglin said a truck with a decal on the door had hooked a chain to the burning truck and tried to pull it to the north. It still wouldn't budge because it was too tangled up.
"By this time, the smoke had gotten so thick that I couldn't see the guy any more," Anglin said. "I was just mortified. I had never experienced anything like that. The guy never once uttered a sound ... not a help,' not nothing.
"The smoke was so thick, and the way that it rolled in the cab of the truck... it rolled above his head, over the windshield and right onto him," Anglin said. "By that time, the tires were already blown out and those guys were trying to pull him out. The truck never blew up, which amazed the heck out me."
Anglin he had trouble sleeping throughout the weekend, and the incident was constantly on his mind.
"I keep wondering, Who is his family?' You wonder if they want to know what really happened," Anglin said. "You wonder, was this God's test, and you blew it, because you didn't save the guy?
"Everything that we encounter, there's a reason for it and I don't know if I could've done any more. But it's hard knowing you were there, and the man is gone. I mean, just gone."
Contact Jimmie Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org