By AMY LINDBLOM
Ten days after the fiery truck accident that almost killed her husband, Paula Guldner has an eerie reminder of it an audio recording of the rescue.
After David Guldner crashed his truck on Highway 108, he called his wife from his cell phone but had to leave a message because she wasn't home. He told her he loved her. Then he put the phone down on the seat and on the recorded message at his home are several moments of silence.
"Are you OK?" a man's voice then calls out
"That's me on her answering machine," said Taj Matney. "I got chills when she told me that."
Matney is being praised for his heroic actions and for risking his own life to pull Guldner from the burning truck. Paula Guldner told him so as did David Guldner's grateful daughter and parents. All have yet to meet Matney. They are in Sacramento at the gravely injured man's bedside.
"He absolutely is a hero. If Taj didn't do what he did, the guy would have died," said Tuolumne County Emergency Medical Services Coordinator Dan Burch, who came upon the accident while on his way home from work.
With second- and third-degree burns to his legs, left arm, stomach and back, Guldner remains in critical condition at U.C. Davis Medical Center's Burn Unit. He faces a long recovery and needs multiple skin grafts to heal, his daughter said.
But Guldner, 41, has a chance to live, something he would not have gotten if not for Matney.
About 5:45 p.m. Monday, Oct. 13, the 33-year-old Standard-area man and father of two young children and three stepchildren was on his way home from work when he saw a line of cars. It was on Highway 108's four-lane section, about a mile and a half east of the Tulloch Lake Road exit.
Matney said he has seen lots of accidents on the highway in the six years he has been making the trip to the Central Valley for his work as a union electrician. He has never before stopped.
But he stopped for this one.