Passers-By Help Driver After Wreck
Volunteer firefighter is dragged from brush truck after crash near Polk City.

By Dana Willhoit
The Ledger

THE GREEN SWAMP -- Volunteer firefighter Jose Macias slumped over the wheel of his crashed pickup, tilted precariously in the swamp several feet from the road.

"Joe, wake up! Joe, wake up!" his passenger, Jose Morales, yelled while leaning into the truck's passenger-side window, as Kandyce Silas and her family drove up on the wreck.

"That's all I heard," Silas said shortly after the brush truck crashed on Deen Still Road on Saturday afternoon.

"He wasn't talking. He wasn't responding at all."

About 5:15 p.m. Saturday, a Polk County Fire Department brush truck careened off Deen Still Road while rounding a curve several miles outside Polk City.

Macias, 21, a Polk County firefighter, and Morales, 17, who was on a ridealong, were ferrying paperwork between fire stations, according to interim Fire Chief Rick Parnell.

The Ford F-350 brush truck -- used to fight brush fires in wooded areas -rolled over at least once after running off the road and then landed upright, leaning on its side.

Saturday night, investigators could not say what caused the wreck, which happened in a remote, wooded area between Highway 33 and Old Grade Road, where miles of trees and swamp separate the houses.

Silas, of Lakeland, was headed to visit her husband, who works in Kissimmee, when she spotted the wreck.

She and her mother waded through the black, murky water the pickup was lying in. Morales, who told Silas he'd crawled out through the open window, was trying to revive Macias.

"He wasn't talking. He wasn't responding at all," Silas said.

Together, Silas and Morales pulled on the passenger-side door but couldn't open it. And they couldn't reach the driver's door because of the way the truck was tilted. Silas' mother, Wanda McCoy, flagged down some men driving by, who helped spring the door and carry Macias to safety.

"They had to drag him through the water. He was limp," Silas said.

Paramedics took Macias to Lakeland Regional Medical Center by helicopter, and Morales was transported there by ambulance. Both remained in stable condition Saturday night. Their injuries were not considered life-threatening, according to Katy Hitchcock, a spokeswoman for the Polk County Fire Department.

Dana Willhoit can be reached at dana.willhoit@theledger.com or 863-802-7550.