Police say the driver lost control and slammed into the median divider. The fire broke out in the area of the Media/Swarthmore exit (#3). Firefighters were called to the scene around 10:30 a.m.
The accident caused massive traffic jams for much of the day. The wreckage was removed from the side of the roads at near 10:00 p.m.
The driver of the truck, 34-year-old Rebecca Schittler, was taken to Crozer Chester Medical Center where she is listed in fair condition.
In the panic filled moments after this fiery crash, dozens of drivers stared in disbelief.
Patrick and John Giles saw it unfold far too close for comfort.
"I saw her go off to the right just a little bit, then come across two lanes of traffic and run into the guard rail. And I yelled to John look out, look out," Patrick said.
Seconds later, Schittler's truck was engulfed in flames. The driver's side door was pinned shut by the guardrail. Patrick and his nephew John were on their way to do some Christmas shopping, but when they saw what was happening they immediately jumped into action and knew what to do, since both are firefighters.
"A couple of tractor trailers drivers had stopped, we got their extinguishers. We were able to use the extinguishers to knock the flames down enough," Patrick said.
Finally, able to get close to the cab of the truck, Patrick, a 26 year veteran of the Elsmere, Delaware Fire Department, pried open the door and got a glimpse inside.
"And I could hear her screaming and I reached in, I couldn't see her in the smoke, I reached in, she grabbed my hand and I pulled her out," Patrick said.
He and John, who joined the department 5 years ago, carrying on what he calls a family tradition, carried Schittler across the road to safety, saving her life in the process.
"It's kind of what we do, so we're trained to do that and it's a rare occasion when you get to use your training to do something like this," Patrick said.
Schittler told the Giles she can't remember what happened before the crash.
As for the Giles, they never made it to the mall, but it turns out that is not where they were needed the most.