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A deputy's save: Dramatic rescue at fiery crash scene

Less than a minute after woman was pulled to safety, her car burst into flames

Editor's note: As part of our year-end coverage, we look back at some of 2012's biggest news stories and reconnect with some of those involved. In this article, Deputy Mark Empting recalls the rescue — captured on dash cam — of a woman trapped in her car moments before it burst into flames. 

By Deputy Mark Empting
Clay County Sheriff's Office

The night of October 9 started just like any other shift until around 9:30 pm when it took a drastic turn. We were dispatched to a report of a two vehicle head-on crash on HWY 75, just north of Moorhead a few miles.

The dispatch center informed us that one of the vehicles was on fire and the driver was still trapped inside. As we were responding to the crash, we were told that there were bystanders on scene trying to pull the driver out of the burning car, but that their attempts were unsuccessful.

I was the first emergency responder to arrive on scene and I saw the entire engine compartment of a Dodge Status engulfed in flames. The flames were starting to intrude into the passenger compartment of the vehicle, where the driver was still trapped inside due to the dashboard being crushed back to the seat of the car.

The driver was screaming from the pain of her injuries and I could only assume the intense heat from the fire.

At first, I tried to use a pry bar from my squad to try and free her from the burning car. That did not have much of an effect, and the fire was growing and time was running out.

With the assistance of two bystanders, we started to pull as hard as we could to release the driver from the car. After a few attempts, we were able to see that the driver was starting to become free.

After a few more attempts we were able to free the driver out of the burning car. A second deputy arrived, checked the rest of the car and was able to confirm that no one else was inside.

Within a minute, the entire car was engulfed in flames including the area where we just pulled the driver out of.

Fortunately, everyone survived the crash including the two people that were in the second vehicle. Everyone involved in the crash sustained injuries, but everyone is still alive today and recovering.

I was very thankful that there are other people that were willing to come to the assistance of the people that were involved in the crash.

Had no one stepped up to help the driver of the burning car, there is no doubt that the outcome would have been quite different.

They were just ordinary people that were thrown into a terrifying situation. We were all able to work like a team, without saying a word to each at the time, to get the driver to safety.

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