ST. ANTHONY — It happened so fast.
The train. The semi-truck. The crash. The fire. The man trapped and unable to move.
Brandon Bair recalls every detail of a routine Thursday night that led to him saving the life of 25-year-old Steven Jenson seconds before Jenson could have burned to death.
Bair’s name may sound familiar. The 36-year-old South Fremont High School graduate played in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles before retiring in 2016. He now lives in St. Anthony with his wife and four daughters and is the general manager of Henry’s Fork Homes.
“I was on Highway 20 driving to my business when I saw the train hit the truck. There was an explosion right away, and the train was pushing the truck down the tracks,” Bair tells EastIdahoNews.com. “I got on the phone with 911 and started driving down the median to get to the front of the train when it stopped.”
The crash happened around 5:45 p.m. on East 400 North near North 2300 East in St. Anthony. The train struck the semi on the passenger side, and Jenson was pinned inside the driver’s seat, unable to move.
Bair ran across the highway as the conductors were getting out of the train. Smoke filled the air, and flames covered the front of the train and the semi.
“The conductors clearly couldn’t breathe because of all the smoke in the cab,” Bair recalls. “They warned me not to go near the truck because it was up in flames.”
Bair heard a voice from inside the cab and knew he had to act fast. His family flashed through his mind as he realized he was putting his life on the line. He ran up to the truck, but the only accessible way to get to Jenson was a small rear window between the passenger and driver’s seat.
“It was a conscious decision that I’m going in because he needs help right now,” Bair says. “I ran up to the window and saw dripping hot flames all over inside of the truck. I could see a guy in a seatbelt and was able to reach in and get it off of him. He was talking, and I told him we had to get out of here now.”
Even though the seatbelt was off, Jenson was still pinned inside the cab. Bair climbed halfway in as the two worked together to break the steering wheel and other equipment. The 6’6″, 260-pound football player then pulled Jenson out the “teeny window.”
“We walked away, and within seconds, the fire on the roof fell down inside, and the whole seat and cab went up in flames. A few minutes later, there were a couple big booms and explosives,” Bair recalls.
Bair stayed with Jenson until emergency responders arrived. Jenson was airlifted to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, where he was in fair condition Friday morning, according to a hospital spokeswoman. Idaho State Police continue to investigate the crash.
The entire ordeal lasted less than three minutes. Bair spoke with the police, got into his truck and called his wife as he drove home.
“I was able to hold it together and be tough, but then I got a little shaky when I heard her voice,” Bair says. “Being able to go home and put my arms around my kids – it hit me. You never know what’s going to happen in life, and this shows you should hug your family every chance you get.”
Bair acknowledges two teenagers and others who stopped to help when the crash happened. He does not consider himself a hero and says anyone else would have done the same thing if they were in the same situation. He was not burned and only had a few scratches.
He is convinced Jenson has a purpose in life, and Bair was placed in the right place at the exact moment he was needed.
“All I can say is this guy was supposed to live. I’m a man of faith, and I’ve learned to listen to your gut and the promptings you get,” Bair says. “The Lord wanted him alive. Things could have gone different a million different directions, but things worked out on his behalf. That’s my conclusion. Whether it was me or someone else, he was supposed to live.”