Driver who crashed into home rescued from burning vehicle

James Dean, 72, of Port Orchard talks about what he saw Tuesday when an SUV crashed into the Lund Avenue house behind him and burst into flames. Dean helped the driver get out of the burning vehicle. - Tim Kelly/Staff photo
James Dean, 72, of Port Orchard talks about what he saw Tuesday when an SUV crashed into the Lund Avenue house behind him and burst into flames. Dean helped the driver get out of the burning vehicle.
— image credit: Tim Kelly/Staff photo

A couple good Samaritans may have saved a man’s life Tuesday when they helped him get out of a burning sport utility vehicle that crashed into the front of a residence.

James Dean was driving along Lund Avenue a little past noon when a Dodge Durango shot across the street in front of him and he “just missed it by about an inch.”

Dean, 72, said the vehicle was southbound on Hoover Avenue when it blew past the stop sign, crossed Lund at high speed and crashed into the home, erupting in flames.

He and Kim Moreno, another driver who witnessed the crash, stopped and rushed to the burning rig.

“There were two or three guys standing at the side saying, ‘It’s gonna blow up, don’t go over there,’” Dean said.

But he knew the driver would die in the fire if he was unconscious and unable to get out of the vehicle.

“We think (the driver) was passed out, because we were yelling at him when we ran up and he was not moving,” Moreno said.

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire that erupted when a vehicle crashed into a house on Lund Avenue and ruptured a gas line Tuesday.Dean couldn’t open the driver’s door, but he was able to open the back hatch. He climbed in and shook the driver, yelling that he had to get out.

The man started to revive but was still groggy as Dean pulled out a pocket knife and was about to cut off the seat belt. But then the man snapped out of it and was able to scramble out the back of the vehicle, Dean said.

By the time South Kitsap Fire & Rescue crews arrived, the SUV was engulfed in flames.

Firefighters tried to keep the blaze from spreading through the residence, but had difficulty extinguishing flames next to the incinerated vehicle, which ruptured a natural gas line into the residence.

The driver, a Port Orchard man in his early 20s, may have experienced a medical condition and blacked out while he was driving.

Moreno said when she spoke with him briefly after he got out of the vehicle, the man told her he’d had some dental work done earlier in the day but hadn’t felt any ill effects from it.

The man, whose identity has not been released, was taken by ambulance to Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

No one was inside the manufactured home at the time of the crash, but a man who had been in the front bedroom where the vehicle hit had left just minutes earlier to go to his grandmother’s house next door.

The homeowner, James Doolittle, was out of the country on an assignment with his job at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. He is due to return to Port Orchard today, his daughter, Rebecca Corchado, said Wednesday.

Corchado, who said she grew up at the residence in the 1900 block of Lund Avenue, had just moved back to town last week from the East Coast. She and her two children were living at her father’s place, and she was helping care for her grandmother who lives next door. The kids were in school and she was out job hunting at the time of Tuesday’s crash.

She said her brother who lives there, James Doolittle, had been inside but went over to his grandmother’s house shortly before the vehicle smashed into the residence.

Corchado said her father had recently remodeled the home in preparation for his retirement in a couple years.


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