Surviving a Fiery Car Crash

Trooper Byron Foxx and Sgt. Matthew Witmerrescued a woman from a burning car in December and were awarded the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s most prestigious award. Deborah Berry,a 52-year-old Parma resident, was pulled from that burning car following
Rescuing a Woman
It was cold and damp, still dark, about five till seven when we arrived at the two-vehicle accident: One was up against the guardrail.

The husband had blood coming down from his face. He was trying to get out: “I think my car’s on fire.” I took a deep breath and smelled smoke.

His wife was the passenger. “I think she has a broken hip,” he said. The door jammed, so I pried it open with my hands while trying to coax her out without having to physically get her out.

“No, no, no,” she screamed. “It hurts.” She plain couldn’t move.

My partner saw a flame flickering under the hood. We had to get her out. If we didn’t control this fire, she was going to get stuck in there.

I crawled around to the driver’s side and put the seat down, hoping to get some more space to move her around. I put the seat back up. Her husband grabbed her left leg, which was broken in several places.

This is going to hurt, I thought. There’re no two ways about it.

The fire had started to grow.

Her husband said, “Honey, I love you.” He grabbed that leg and twisted. I was at her shoulders, pushing. We got her facing out the door.

My partner started spraying the fire extinguisher on the fire.

She couldn’t move. She was screaming. You could tell it hurt.

The fire was advancing under the dashboard. I didn’t realize it was that bad. My partner grabbed another extinguisher.

The whole time, we focused on the fact that we had to get her out.

The two of us lifted her out of the vehicle as carefully as we could.

As we scooted her along the pavement, the fire was on the passenger side. We were way too close. I felt that warmth on my back and realized how bad it could have been for all of us.

—as told to Chuck Bowen

Being Rescued
I was riding with my husband, James. We were driving on Route 3 when a car coming from the other direction turned left in front of us.

My husband swerved, avoiding what would have been a direct hit, but we still clipped the other car. It went into a tailspin; we went into the guardrail.

They said that had my husband not acted and turned our car, we would have killed the other driver. James got out and called 9-1-1.

He asked me if I was OK. I told him, “I don’t think so. I think my hip is broken.”

I braced myself before the crash, which was my mistake. I never passed out, even after the impact.

The troopers got there very quickly. Everything just went incredibly fast.

They put the seat back. “Ow, that hurts.” They put the seat up. “Ow, that hurts.”

They said, “We’re moving you now, madam.” One pushed me from behind; my husband was pulling me.

He grabbed my hips and turned them.

It was terrible pain.

I think I was a Tourette’s victim. I was very verbal. “Aw, shit, damn,” and then, “I’m sorry. Thank you for helping me.”

It was just unbelievable the way it happened. They laid me down, and the car started going in flames. I could feel the flames from the fire — like in front of a fireplace. I didn’t realize the car was on fire when I was inside it. Everything happened so fast.

“Oh, my god.” That’s all I could think: “Oh, my God.”

It was a 16 year-old kid. I’m not mad at him. My husband’s not mad at him. We just want him to learn from it and be more careful in the future. 

—as told to Chuck Bowen
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