From his regular spot — the guardrail by the I-70 off-ramp towards Denver — Darin Barton could see the deadly crash unfold.
As KDVR News reports, Barton has been homeless for nearly five years. On many days, he can be found panhandling in his usual spot near the highway, holding a sign that says, “Have a blessed day.”
“There’s a saying that’s been around for a lot of years,” he told KDVR. “It says, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ I don’t. I sit out there everyday, and I don’t judge nobody. I just try to make their day a little bit better.”
On April 25, Barton was sitting at his place near the highway when an out-of-control semi plowed into dozens of cars stuck in rush hour traffic. According to ABC 7 Denver, the accident involved four semis, 24 cars, and killed four people.
Barton told ABC 7 that as soon as he saw the truck run into the stopped cars, he started running toward the crash:
“I heard the truck plowing through cars and as I looked, his cab rolled over and [burst into] a ball of flames. Explosion after explosion, and as people were running out of it, I ran toward it.”
As Barton ran toward the flaming crash, he could see the people who’d managed to escape running the other way.
“As soon as I [saw] flames, I headed under the bridge, grabbed three or four people out of a couple cars,” he told KDVR.
Barton noted that he wasn’t the only one working to free people from the wreckage. Other good Samaritans were also there helping out.
Now hailed as a hero for risking his life to save others, Barton insists he only did what “anybody would’ve done” in his place.
But this isn’t the first time Barton has helped someone in need. Valerie Blease told KDVR that two years ago, Barton noticed her car was smoking and helped her get to safety after she was hurt in an accident.
Blease said she wasn’t surprised to learn that Barton ran to help the victims of the multi-car crash. She thanked Barton, saying, “I can’t thank you enough for being there when you have to be, we’re running out of heroes … there are good people out there no matter what their situation.”
In the meantime, Barton is still in his usual spot. He told KDVR that he hopes the story teaches people not to judge someone because he or she is homeless:
“Pull over and talk to me … or any homeless person. Take them out to lunch or something, just find out their story. Might learn something that you never knew before.”