by: Tony Thomas Updated:
GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - The family of a man severely burned in a truck fire on Interstate 85 is praising a local Marine for saving his life.
Taray McGinnis was driving his 1988 Ford F-150 pickup truck northbound on I-85 last Sunday when it erupted into flames near the Old Peachtree Road exit.
McGinnis pulled off to the side of the road, and Marine Sgt. Matthew Sullivan swooped into action.
"I saw a larger puff of smoke coming out of the passenger side," Sullivan told Channel 2’s Tony Thomas.
"That was him?" Thomas asked.
"That was him. He was completely engulfed in flames," Sullivan replied.
Sullivan said flames covered more than half of McGinnis’ body but he kept telling him to drop and roll. McGinnis did and eventually Sullivan along with others doused the flames.
"I kept talking to him and letting him yell at me. I was like, ‘As long as you’re still screaming and breathing you are still alive,’" Sullivan said.
Sullivan said another Marine, an Army veteran, and a local firefighter’s wife all arrived to help rescue McGinnis.
McGinnis is recovering in Grady Hospital's burn unit with third-degree burns on his face, arms, stomach and back.
Doctors have sedated Sullivan to help him recover.
"They say he couldn't even handle the pain if he was awake, it would be impossible," Taray’s mother, Stacey, said. "I keep talking to him and letting him know the people that have rallied around him."
For Sullivan, three tours of combat had nothing compared to what he witnessed along the freeway.
"Been through combat situations, seen some crazy stuff, but this at home in America is just a different story," he said.
The McGinnis family is preparing for a long stay at Grady and Sullivan plans to visit this weekend.
"He’s got a long road ahead but the doctors say because he's so young, that works in his favor," Stacey McGinnis said.