07/12/09 — Mount Olive police rescue victims from burning car

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Mount Olive police rescue victims from burning car

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 12, 2009 12:25 AM

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A car driven by Efrain Escalantes, 21, of 135 Ed Houston Road, Crossville, Tenn. lays in a ditch beside U.S. 117 Alternate (South Breazeale Avenue) near Royal Circle. Police say Escalantes lost control of his vehicle coming out of a curve and ran off the road.

MOUNT OLIVE -- Two men who were trapped inside a burning vehicle after it overturned late Friday night were rescued by Mount Olive police who had to kick in the vehicle's windows and cut them loose from their seat belts.

The men, who were seriously injured, were transported by Wayne County EMS to the emergency department at Wayne Memorial Hospital, said Chief of Police Ralph Schroeder.

Alcohol is suspected in the one-vehicle crash that occurred at 11:28 p.m. on U.S. 117 Alternate (South Breazeale Avenue) near Royal Circle. Open beer containers were found in the vehicle, police said. A blood test was performed.

The driver has been identified as Efrain Escalantes, 21, of 135 Ed Houston Road, Crossville, Tenn. The passenger had not been identified prior to presstime Saturday.

According to police, the vehicle was coming out of a curve on U.S. 117 Alternate when it ran off the right side of the road. Escalantes overcorrected and the vehicle crossed the center line.

He overcorrected a second time causing the vehicle to skid off the road to the right. The vehicle struck a ditch causing it to flip over onto its roof and catch on fire.

There were roughly 147 feet in skid marks, Schroeder said. The speed limit on that section of road is 35 mph. The vehicle was estimated to be traveling at 45 mph at the time of the wreck.

Fire had spread from the engine compartment to the front wheel wells when Cpl. David Casey arrived at the scene followed by Patrolmen Steve Parks and Dustin Sasser.

Parks emptied a fire extinguisher on the fire, but was unable to extinguish it.

Casey was unable to open the doors and first broke the rear driver-side window, Schroeder said. However, Casey was unable to get to the driver from that angle and broke the front driver-side window. It was at that point that he saw the passenger who also was hanging by his seat belt.

Casey entered the vehicle and removed Escalantes after cutting the seat belt passing him out to Stevens. The passenger-side window was broken and the seat belt cut to remove the passenger.

The three officers moved the two victims about 50 yards from the burning vehicle and the fire was extinguished by Mount Olive firefighters.

Schroeder was said Escalantes was semi-conscious at the time, but that the passenger was unconscious.

"My personal opinion is that the officers put themselves into harm's way to get these people out," Schroeder said. "I have been there when a vehicle has overturned and is on fire -- that is not an easy thing to do to try and get somebody out of a car because you are worried about yourself plus worrying about them."

He added, "There are probably charges pending on this because there was appeared to be alcohol involved."