09/16/2012 12:52 EDT | Updated 11/16/2012 05:12 EST

Les Toews: Grandfather Saves Lives Of Grandchildren Before Dying In Fiery Crash Near Linden Alberta


A retired Alberta firefighter is being hailed a hero after he saved the lives of two of his grandchildren before succumbing to his own injuries following a fiery crash Friday evening.

Les Toews was driving with his son-in-law and two grandchildren on Hwy. 21, south of Three Hills, Alta., shortly after 6 p.m. Friday evening when his pickup truck collided with another truck, reports CNews.

Sixty-nine-year-old Toews was trapped in the burning vehicle, "but he managed to manoeuvre to reach the children in the back and assist in getting them out the driver's side window to their father, who had managed to get out the other side," Sgt. Patricia Neely of the Beiseker RCMP told CNews.

"The grandfather handed the children through the window to the father."

Toews was hauling sod for his son, Sidney Toews, when the crash occured.

The truck swerved into the oncoming lane and smashed into another truck, immedidately igniting both, according to the Calgary Herald. Police are investigating the possibility that mechanical failure on one of the trucks caused the crash.

Sidney told the Herald both boys were taken to hospital to be treated for cuts and burns, but were released Saturday. Toew's son-in-law, Tony, was treated for cracked ribs, broken vertebrae and burns, but is expected to recover.

Two people in the second truck were killed and "burned beyond recognition," according to Sgt. Neely. Dental records will be needed to identify their bodies.

A horse, which was traveling in a trailer attached to one of the trucks, was also killed and another is being treated for burns, according to CTV News.

Meanwhile, the nearby community of Linden is mourning the tragic incident.

"It's a really close community and they are a very loving family and they're going to be missed," Diane Evans, a family friend, told Global Edmoton.

Another family friend, Christine Coggins, told CTV News, "you couldn't find a nicer guy. Les was one of the nicest people I've ever met. He was always willing to help someone out, always willing to lend a hand."