Man saved from burning car wreck in Southeast Boise

One rescuer crawled into the car as he tried to free the trapped driver.

kterhune@idahostatesman.comJuly 27, 2013 

A car caught fire after it collided with a Jeep in southeast Boise Thursday night. Onlookers pulled the driver of the burning vehicle to safety.

COURTESY OF DASHIELL DALE

When a car caught fire after a head-on crash Thursday night, onlookers sprang into action.

Corey DuPont lives near Amity Road and Surprise Way in Boise, where the car collided with a Jeep about 9:40 p.m. Thursday. He heard the crash and squealing tires and went to see what had happened.

“When I showed up, the sedan was on fire already,” he said. “One gentleman was trying to pull the driver from the driver’s seat.”

As others worked to pull the driver free, DuPont said, he tended to a young male passenger who had gotten out of the car on his own.

Debbie Jones and her fiance Todd Merritt were out for a motorcycle ride when they spotted the burning car. The scene was so quiet, Jones said, she first surmised that emergency responders had come and gone.

Then she saw a woman looking in the car and trying “to yank the door open,” Jones said. “She looked like she was panicked.”

That’s when they realized the driver was trapped inside.

Another onlooker tried to open the driver’s door, but it was stuck, Jones said. The man then went around and climbed in the passenger-side door to try to free the driver. But his legs were stuck, Jones said.

Jones knew rescuers were running out of time and feared the burning car would explode.

“The flames were already making their way to the front screen, and you could feel them if you got near the car, so you could tell it was hot inside,” she said.

Merritt and three others then worked together to pry open the driver’s door and pull the man free.

The rescuers carried the man a safe distance from the car and waited for firefighters and police to arrive.

“They had gotten him out, and good thing,” said DuPont, “because that car was fully engulfed in flames before the fire department showed up.”

The driver was dazed, with a leg that looked broken or dislocated, Jones said. He later told a Boise police officer he had been drinking before the crash, Jones said.

Boise police spokesman Charles McClure declined to offer details because the investigation is incomplete, but acknowledged that police are looking at alcohol as a possible factor in the wreck. A reconstruction team is investigating; no citations have been issued, McClure said.

The driver of the burning car, his passenger and the Jeep’s driver were taken by ambulance to the hospital, McClure said. None of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening. Police have not released the names of any of the people involved. Jones and DuPont don’t know the names of the other people who stopped to help.

Jones said she is not easily rattled, but realized the seriousness of the situation when she saw flames moving across the car. Putting themselves in harm’s way for a stranger was instinctual for the rescuers, she said. “I think it just kicks in to help,” Jones said.

Katie Terhune: 377-6219

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