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The Daily Tar Heel

Man's Drive Saves Girl's Life

Mangum, a tow truck driver who owns and operates American Eagle Towing and Recovery in Durham, was driving to Chatham County on Aug. 15 to pick up a car when something completely unexpected happened.

An overturned Chevrolet truck lay burning in a ditch on the side of Jones Ferry Road.

Mangum pulled over to help and heard screams coming from Cyndi Jones, a senior at Chapel Hill High School, who was trapped in the burning truck. But the flames didn't stop Mangum.

First, he tried to use a fire extinguisher to put out the fire. But when that didn't work, he knew he had to take action.

Mangum reached through the flames to unbuckle her seat belt and dragged Jones out of the burning vehicle, saving her life.

Mangum recalls that day in complete shock.

"I guess adrenaline kicked in; I don't remember anything except getting her out," he said.

Jones, 17, also said her memory of the accident is a blur.

"I don't really remember much. The car spun out of control because I overcompensated," she said.

"The next thing I remember was being on the ground and the ambulance coming."

Mangum's heroic actions have prompted Murray and fellow tow truck driver Chris Vickers to nominate him for several awards, including the Governor's Award for Bravery and Heroism and the Carnegie Medal.

The Governor's Award for Bravery and Heroism is an annual award given to honor citizens who have risked their lives to save another. The Carnegie Medal is a private award given to recognize outstanding acts of heroism.

Both of these nominations are in the review process, and it could take up to one year to decide the results.

Jones, who is recovering now and plans to return to school in a week, said she will never forget what Mangum did for her and that she is thrilled that he has been nominated for so many heroism awards.

"He's a very special person, and he'd better get the awards," she said. "He deserves it, and if he doesn't get them, I will be very angry."

In all his years in fire service, Murray said that he has seen citizens performing CPR before firefighters arrived on the scene but that he has never come across a citizen risking his life to save another person.

"Normally it's us saving someone's life instead of the citizen," he said.

It is fortunate that Mangum managed to drag Jones out of the truck because it might have been too late to save her by the time the fire department arrived, Murray said.

The recognition has been overwhelming for Mangum, and he said he would rather not be in the limelight.

"My friends have kind of been busting my chops about it," he said. "I'm honored to be nominated, but as far as I was concerned, I was in the right place at the right time.

But Jones disagrees with his humble attitude.

"He's a real hero."

To nominate someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the University community to be a Star Heel, e-mail

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