Fort Drum soldiers recount actions after fuel truck explosion

Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 5:10 PM EDT
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FORT DRUM, New York (WWNY) - A fuel truck explosion Tuesday shook Tripp Fuels in the town of Fowler, injuring a mechanic who was later rescued by a childhood friend and a pair of Fort Drum soldiers on the scene. On Wednesday, 7 News met with those soldiers who recounted their experiences.

On Tuesday, Staff Sergeant Joshua Hayes and Private First Class Jacob Lundemo were grabbing a bite at Bob’s Diner next to Tripp Fuels. While taking their last sips of coffee, the diner shook.

“I was like, that sounded a lot like a mortar. That’s when we heard them say a gas truck just exploded out back,” said Hayes.

The soldiers sprang into action, deciding to evacuate the diner and neighboring buildings in case of another explosion. The men’s action was influenced by what they learned in the Army.

“Just all of the training in general that we’ve had I think put us in a situation to react properly to a situation that was very chaotic,” said Hayes.

When people were safe, the men turned their attention to the exploded fuel truck and noticed a man lying motionless next to the burning wreckage.

That injured man was Jon Kelley, a mechanic at the fuel company. They joined Kelley’s childhood friend, Bradley Blackburn, to pull Kelley away from the flames.

“I told him, ‘You’re going to be alright. We’re going to get you out of here.’ Initially just to keep him talking. Keep him calm,” said Lundemo.

Lundemo took charge of first aid, but both soldiers say Kelley deserves some credit himself.

“That man - extremely tough, extremely tough. Throughout the whole thing, he kept a good attitude. He actually had a good sense of humor,” said Hayes.

Eventually, emergency workers arrived and Kelley was airlifted to a Syracuse hospital. Hayes says it feels like he and Lundemo were meant to be there.

“Of all places; we were there to help and I’m glad we were,” said Hayes.

Among the people who want to thank the soldiers is Fowler Town Supervisor Ricky Newvine.

“Everyone hopes they’d be a hero when the time came. I don’t know if I could do that but I definitely admire those people for being able to stand up and take care of Jon,” said Newvine.

As Kelley recuperates in a Syracuse hospital, Newvine plans to find a way for the community to help him.