Margaret River truckie Ronny Seidel is glad he always listened to the wise words of his grandfather while growing up.
When a Centurion Transport co-worker became snared in his truck cab after a 2018 crash, it was his grandfather’s advice that Seidel always carry a pocket-knife that helped save the driver’s life.
“I cut his seatbelt, got him out and literally 10 seconds later the whole thing was one big fireball,” Seidel said.
Seidel was reliving the terrifying moment for Big Rigs after being awarded a commendation for brave conduct in the 2021 Australian Bravery Decorations announced last week.
At the time of the crash, German-born Seidel and the truckie he saved were on their way from Kalgoorlie to Perth along the Great Eastern Highway.
Seidel had been following about 100m in behind in his Freightliner Coronado when a slow-moving road train loaded with grain turned west out of Northam-Pithara Road and headed the same way.
Blinded by sunstrike on the incline, Seidel didn’t see the initial crash but somehow managed to avoid ploughing into the back of the trailer ahead.
“My trailer got stuck on his one which sort of pulled me up. That was kind of lucky because I would have crashed into the back of him and it could have been the end of both of us,” recalled Seidel.
“My biggest fear was that I was already in the east bound lane in the path of people coming down the hill.”
Shaken by the near-miss but unhurt, Seidel raced to the aid of his fellow truckie whose engine bay was already well ablaze.
“He was still conscious at that stage, but I could see that he wasn’t in the best way.
“I literally froze for half a second, but then I thought, ‘hang on, I can’t let him burn in front of my eyes’.”
Seidel praised the quick-thinking grain truck driver who joined him in dousing the flames with an extinguisher so he could rip the door open.
“We need a knife, we need a knife,” Seidel heard someone scream as he tried to wrestle the stuck seatbelt free.
“I’ve always had one since I was a little boy because my grandfather taught me that a real man never goes without a pocket-knife in his pocket, and it kind of stuck in my head,” recalled Seidel.
“Since then, I’ve always had one with me when I’m at work, and that’s what saved his life.”
The driver escaped with a broken arm and a few minor burns, while Seidel walked away without so much as a scratch and continues to drive for Centurion where he’s worked for the last five years.
“This is not something you go looking for,” the humble hero said of the unexpected bravery award that followed.
“I still don’t know who put my name forward.
“It’s just lucky that no one got [seriously] hurt, that’s the most important thing.”