Pit crew member engulfed in flames and man who helped save his life share their story

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Who was the man who jumped on rear tire changer Anthony O’Brien when O’Brien was on fire during last month’s NASCAR Xfinity race at Richmond International Raceway?

KATV in Arkansas tells the story of eye doctor Cliff Turner and how he helped save O’Brien’s life.

A mechanical failure on a gas can caused fuel to spill during Brendan Gaughan’s pit stop in the race. A spark ignited the fuel, causing a fire that sent three people, including two of Gaughan’s pit crew, to the hospital – gas man Josh Wittman, O’Brien and Turner, a member of Eric McClure’s pit crew.

“I just remember, hitting a lug nut and it sparked and it was nothing but a big flame ball,” O’Brien told KATV.

“He was burning from the ground up,” Turner told the TV station. “You could just see that look of panic on his face.”

O’Brien was briefly engulfed in flames and ran toward McClure’s pit box where Turner jumped on him to help extinguish the fire.

“Even when I fell on him, he was burning so bad that the flames were coming up all around me and I could feel the heat,’’ Turner told KATV.

“I can’t thank him enough,’’ O’Brien told KATV. “When I see him, I’m going to give him a hug and tell him thank you because he’s definitely one of the reasons that I’m not worse off than I am.’’

Only Turner, who was treated for inhaling the spray from fire extinguishers, was released that night. O’Brien was the last of those injured in the fire to be released. He spent three nights in the hospital.

Richard Childress Racing said last week that it was initiating safety changes for its pit crews. Among the changes is requiring all over-the-wall crew members to wear a fire-protective head sock.