WOOSTER, Ohio — Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers, Wooster police officers and Wayne County Sheriff’s deputies helped pull three people to safety after the car they were in crashed into a ditch and caught fire following a pursuit by troopers on U.S. 30 earlier this month.
The crash occurred in the early morning hours of July 3 near Madison Avenue in Wayne County after the driver fled from a traffic stop, according to a news release from OSP.
At about 3:47 a.m., troopers saw a black Audi A5 driving at a high rate of speed on U.S. 30 westbound, the release states. Troopers tried to catch up to the car and clocked its speed at 95 mph in a 55 mph zone. A traffic stop was initiated, but the driver fled and a pursuit ensued. Sgt. Ray Santiago with OSHP believes the pursuit reached speeds of 130 mph at one point.
The Audi continued west and tried to exit onto Madison Avenue in Wooster when it lost control and struck a ditch, which caused it to go airborne over a guardrail and eventually come to rest against a group of trees, OSHP officials stated.
"Get out of the car. Show me your hands now!” one law enforcement official can be heard saying on body camera video provided by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office. At first, officers were cautious, with guns drawn, unsure if those in the car had any weapons.
But then, troopers realized that the vehicle had caught on fire, and the driver and two passengers couldn’t get out. It was then that officers had that tense rescue on their hands.
"As if the situation didn't need to be more complex, the vehicle catches fire,” Sgt. Santiago said.
Trooper Josiah Custer grabbed a fire extinguisher, and he and Trooper Aaron White got two of the people out of the burning car.
Body camera video provided by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office captures Deputy Blair Harper arriving with his fire extinguisher and spraying the burning car.
"We got to move away from the car. We got to move. The car is on fire,” said the deputy as he pulled a 17-year-old girl trapped in the wreckage away from the dangerous scene.
"I was able to get underneath her arms and pull her from the vehicle,” he said in an interview with News 5.
Just a short time later, video shows the car was completely engulfed in flames, with the first responders stating, “All occupants are out of the vehicle."
Wooster City Fire and EMS arrived on scene, assisted with putting out the vehicle and transported the injured car occupants to Wooster Community hospital for initial treatment.
The intense rescue could have ended tragically, but Harper doesn't believe his actions were heroic — just part of the job.
"I showed up and I knew what had to be done and it got done,” he said. “That's about the best way I could put it."
The driver was identified as a 20-year-old Wooster man who was later taken by LifeFlight to Akron General Hospital for serious injuries, the release states. He did not have his seat belt on at the time of the crash and impairment is suspected.
The front-right passenger was identified as a 17-year-old Wooster girl who was taken to Akron Children’s Hospital for serious injuries. The two backseat passengers, 18 and 20-year-old men both from Wooster, were later taken to Akron General Hospital for serious injuries.
“It doesn't matter what they've done before, what they've 5 minutes ago, or what they're going to do tomorrow,” Harper said. “None of that matters. What matters is that they could be helped at that moment."
OSHP said the incident remains under investigation and charges are pending.
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.