IRON COUNTY — Quick work by Utah Highway Patrol troopers likely saved the life of a woman trapped unconscious inside a burning car along Interstate 15 Tuesday night.
The woman was a passenger in a stolen car that rolled multiple times and caught fire near an on-ramp of I-15 in Iron County. Troopers who arrived at the scene as the car ignited worked to extinguish the blaze and free the woman as emergency vehicles raced to the scene.
The incident began in Washington County on I-15 at mile post 40 shortly after 9:30 p.m. when a UHP trooper attempted to stop a northbound silver Audi traveling more than 100 mph, Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Todd Royce said.
The trooper activated his lights and sirens and began pursuing the car after the driver did not pull to the side of the road and instead accelerated away from the trooper, reaching speeds in excess of 120 mph.
The trooper lost sight of the fleeing car and terminated the pursuit at mile post 48, Royce said, adding that “per protocol, the trooper pulled off of the side of the road and turned off all emergency lights and equipment and advised emergency dispatch that the pursuit was terminated.”
Minutes later, troopers, alerted to the vehicle description, were patrolling in the area and came upon the Audi near Exit 51 a few miles south of Cedar City. It was off to the right of the interstate severely damaged and blocking the single-lane on-ramp. A man was seen staggering outside of the vehicle and troopers soon realized there was a woman in the front passenger seat who appeared to be unconscious seconds before the Audi burst into flames.
UHP trooper Mike Murphy grabbed a fire extinguisher and began fighting the flames that were spreading quickly. Troopers Bambi Baie and Joe Pastor went to help the woman.
The seat belt locking mechanism was jammed, so they cut the belt and pulled the still-unconscious woman from the car and carried her to safety, away from the vehicle that was by then fully engulfed in flames, Royce said.
The ambulance arrived within minutes and transported the woman to Cedar City Hospital in fair condition, where she was evaluated and treated for her injuries, he said. The man followed in a second ambulance a short time later.
The Audi was reported stolen out of Southern California, Royce said, and the Los Angeles Police Department was notified.
The tow truck arrived after 11 p.m. but was unable to remove the car due to intense heat emanating from the vehicle, which continued to smolder and reignite for some time after. Once cooled, the vehicle was towed from the interstate.
The incident is still under investigation and the report will be updated as additional information becomes available.
This report is based on statements from police or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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