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A Heartfelt Thanks to Paramedics, Doctors for Coordinated Cardiac Care

ATLANTA-- At least one metro Atlanta heating and air man has much to be thankful for this holiday week.

After a head-on collision with a pickup truck in Powder Springs early Tuesday morning, Zachery Smith, a 23-year-old driver of a white utility van, found himself trapped in his vehicle, pinned against his seat by the steering wheel and the dashboard.

Then the van began to burn.

At his nearby home, Cobb County firefighter Lt. Robert Chrisner heard the sound of the accident and Smith s cries for help as he set out for work at 6:24 a.m.

Chrisner arrived at the scene within seconds.

With the help of the driver of the pickup truck and another passer-by, Chrisner pulled Smith from the van just as flames enveloped the driver s compartment.

While the trio pulled the man to safety, canisters of compressed coolant and welding equipment in the back of the van began exploding from the heat, said Chrisner.

One of the police officers on the scene, he was in Iran and Iraq, and he said the sound was similar to those bombs that go off on the roadside, said Chrisner.

First responders from Cobb Fire and Emergency Services arrived at the scene, near the intersection of Lost Mountain and Bullard roads, within four minutes, said spokesperson Denell Boyd.

Michelle Robinson, a spokeswoman for WellStar Kennestone Hospital, said Smith was listed in stable condition.

There was no information available on the driver of the pickup truck.

Chrisner, 46, said he usually leaves for work a half-hour earlier, but pulled out of his driveway just before 6:30 Tuesday because it was a training day.

That was definitely odd, because otherwise I would have been long gone when that wreck occurred.

Zachery s mother, Susan Smith, said her son suffered several broken bones and that his trouser legs caught on fire, but he avoided being burned. Thanksgiving will be unorthodox this year, she said.

We may be bringing turkey plates to the hospital, but we have his life, and we ll take that. We thank the good lord above, and Lt. Robert Chrisner.

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