Three witnesses struggled to pull Robert Chidester from the cab of his box truck after a fiery crash on Interstate 95 yesterday, battling back flames to the point that the would-be rescuers suffered burns and smoke inhalation.

But the Good Samaritans couldn't save Chidester, 58, of Darby. The driver died in the intense fire, which smoldered more than an hour after Chidester's truck collided with a tractor-trailer on I-95 near the Blue Route.

The tractor-trailer driver, David Chandler of Georgia, was transported to Crozer-Chester Medical Center with third-degree burns.

State police said that a white vehicle cut in front of Chidester's southbound truck shortly before 11 a.m., causing him to swerve into a northbound lane. His truck ran head-on into the tractor-trailer.

Fire crews tried to douse the flames with foam and water.

All lanes of I-95 - northbound and southbound - from Stewart Avenue in Delaware County to Edgmont Avenue, in Chester, were closed. Southbound traffic resumed about 2:45 p.m., but emergency crews worked well into the afternoon to open the northbound side, said Edwin Truitt, director of emergency services for Delaware County.

State police asked that anyone with information on the crash call 484-840-1000. *