On Friday night, a Tampa woman got the chance to thank the North Carolina man she owes her life to.
As Tim Hunley of Wilmington got out of his rental car outside Sylvia Valladares’ apartment, they immediately embraced. The last time Hunley wrapped his arms around Valladares, he was pulling her from burning wreckage to safety.
“Thank you, thank you,” Valladares repeated over and over.
In March of 2018, Valladares and her boyfriend were driving up I-95 through South Carolina when a tire blew on their motorhome and they crashed into the woods. The motorhomes burst into flames.
Hunley, who was driving home to North Carolina and witnessed the entire wreck, immediately pulled over and ran to try and help.
Valladares was briefly knocked out from the impact but recalls opening to hers and seeing red all around.
“Flames were brushing over her,” Hunley recalled. “I was so scared I was going to catch on fire, scared it was going to blow up. But you can’t just leave her to just sit there.”
Hunley managed to pull Valladares to safety just before the RV blew up. She suffered multiple broken bones and severe burns to more than 60 percent of her body.
It was too late for Valladares’ boyfriend. The man she called the love of her life didn’t make it.
As she recovered over the following months, Valladares and Hunley managed to stay in touch via social media. More than a year later, he flew to Tampa with his wife to meet up with Valladares for a proper reunion.
“He’s my angel, my hero for real,” Valladares said.
On a weekend meant for remembering heroes, Valladares couldn’t be more thankful to be celebrating with hers.
“Believe me, Sylvia and I will be close friends for a long time to come,” Hunley said.
“We’re family now,” Valladares added.