It happened about 6:15 p.m. on I-95 South near mile marker 58 in Cumberland County.
A spokesman for the North Carolina Highway Patrol said the 2013 Freightliner ran off the road on the right shoulder and jackknifed into the woods. It then burst into flames.
Eyewitnesses told state troopers that the vehicle suddenly reduced speed and ran off the road to the right and traveled down an embankment, striking several trees before catching fire.
The truck driver, identified as Gale Bernard Beasley, 61 of Clayton, was able to get out of the cab but suffered severe burns.
Michael Thomas was on his way to work when he saw the fiery crash.
"I immediately pulled over, stopped my car, ran across all four lanes of the highway," he said.
Thomas rushed to help Beasley.
"He was still on fire, so I had to pat him out to put the fire out on his legs," said Thomas. "There was a pine tree about sixty feet tall that was getting ready to come down from what I could tell, and I said we've got to move this man, because if that tree falls over it's going to land right on top of all of us."
Thomas, also a military veteran, moved quickly. He and other drivers pulled Beasley to safety.
"I was amazed at how strong this man was. When I got ready to move him a second time I told him this is going to hurt, but we've got to move you, and the man actually told me do whatever you have to do, brother, do whatever you have to do," said Thomas.
Beasley was flown to UNC's Burn Center. He passed away Tuesday from his injuries.
In a statement to ABC11, Beasley's family said:
Gale Beasley was a devoted husband and father. He loved spending time with his family. Gale Beasley believed in service and served 20 years in the U.S. Army. Gale leaves to cherish his memory, his wife Retha Beasley, children, Juanyetta and Mi'Gale Beasley, and grandson Elijah.
"Without a doubt I'd do it again because I'm a firm believer that if somebody needs some help and you're able to help them you should. I was truly saddened to hear that he passed away," said Thomas.
The funeral service is set for 12:00 p.m. Saturday, July 23, 2016 at New Bern Eastern M. B. Association 885 Hwy 306 N, Grantsboro. Burial will follow at Mt. Zion Church Cemetery, Arapahoe.
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