Former NASCAR driver among rescuers who assisted at scene of fiery head-on crash that killed 2 people
Todd Taylor was on his way to work as a delivery truck driver in Pennsylvania when he rounded o'clock on Route 322 and saw frantically waving sand in the middle of the darkened highway.
Taylor was able to see a mangled pickup truck with smashed camper inside, all covered in smoke, in the left lane against ebony jersey barriers.
He began to draw on his instincts as a former volunteer firefighter in Lewistown. He parked his car in the left traffic lane, turned on his hazard lights to try to keep other people from entering the crash scene, and immediately took action.
Taylor was among a dozen or more passers-by, including professional race car driver Kasey Kahne, who pulled over to help after the 10:38 p.m. crash about three-quarters of heaviest of the mile west of Mountain Road in Middle Paxton Township.
According to witnesses, a wrong-way driver had traveled at least six miles on Route 322 in opposition to other vehicles before crashing the truck and camper head-on.
The couple with the camper was returning from the racetrack at Port Royal Speedway when they were greeted by headlights in their lane. Kahne was also leaving the track after competing there and was one of the first to stop at the collision in the eastbound lanes.
Taylor said he heard a bystander asking for help shortly after stepping out of his car. Kahne couldnt be reached for comment, but if kahne could be found, tyler said the incident occurred shortly thereafter. They yelled that one of the pickup trucks was on fire and the unconscious driver was trapped in the locked vehicle.
Kahne grabbed one from his tour bus after someone specifically asked for fire extinguishers.
According to witnesses and firefighters, Kahne and a second man used fire extinguishers as Taylor and others worked to get the occupants out of the burning cars to try to contain the rising flames.
Taylor jumped up to a white pickup truck and used he belted sandpaper to punch through the drivers side window. On the inside, a curtain air bag protected the driver from the shattered glass.
Taylor reached in and fumbled to locate the button to unlock the door. He reached across the driver, unbuckled his seatbelt, and began pulling him out by the shoulders once he opened the door.
He got the driver halfway out, but his feet got stuck under the steering wheel. Taylor doesnt even know who helped dislodge his feet and together they carried the man to a shoulder, away from the flaming cars.
Jason Sheaffer, the assistant fire chief in Richfield, drove in the westbound lanes past the wreckage on his way home from an evening out in Lancaster with his wife at the time. He saw the driver being carried away from the crumpled burning pickup truck and pulled him over as soon as he could.
He had to be careful not to cause another crash on his side of the jersey barrier. He parked, jumped over the jersey barrier, just as another rescue was taking place.
An off-duty NYPD officer, Paul Faulk, and his girlfriend, a fourth-year medical school student, Kayla Wilson, had witnessed the crash and pulled over.
Faulk ran up to the camper's truck, broke out the passenger window, and single-handedly carried the woman to safety. Wilson and Faulk worked together to move her farther away as the fire spread. She was able to move but she was seriously injured.
Just then, someone hollered that there was another trapped driver. Taylor and Sheaffer both heard the call for help. Wilson, and later, two other women, stayed with the injured woman and continued talking to her to keep her alert.
Sheaffer climbed into the cab of the truck attached to the camper from the passenger side because the drivers side was wedged against the concrete barrier. He couldnt get the drivers attention as flames erupted from the engine against the windshield. Sheaffer stepped out of the truck to open his knife to cut back some of its airbags to allow him to work more efficiently.
Taylor jumped into the truck past him and began pulling the driver out by the shoulders. Sheaffer climbed into the backseat and helped free the drivers legs, which were getting caught on the steering wheel.
Sheaffer added, We knew we had just seconds left, adding that sheaffe was right. The flames and smoke were getting to the point, and we realized that this man only had a few minutes.
Together, they carried the driver across the road. As the fire intensified and made loud popping sounds, they had to move him farther away.
Sheaffer, a working firefighter and emergency medical technician, said he was immediately impressed by Taylor's ability as.
Sheaffer said, I dont know who you are, but youre a godsend."
Multiple passers-by and bystanders had called 911 to report the wrong-way driver and, later, the crash. One of the bystanders gave Sheaffer her phone at one point to assist guide incoming emergency vehicles and give medical updates on the injured so crews could be prepared.
The driver of the truck that carried the camper appeared to be dead, Sheaffer said, and he was relaying that information to the dispatchers.
Sheaffer reported that he has two class one patients and one DOA, but a friend interrupted him and said, Hes moving!
Sheaffer updated his report to the dispatchers, saying, Make that three class one and Ill need a helicopter.
Taylor had stayed with the truck driver who was taking the camper and began talking to rescuers after being removed from his truck.
A woman rescuer asked the driver if anyone was in the camper and the truck said no, then he called his girlfriends name. The driver said they were coming from the races.
The driver raised his toes and spoke with rescuers until the ambulance arrived.
When Dauphin-Middle Paxton Fire Company Assistant Chief Shane Swenson arrived minutes after they were dispatched, all three occupants were out of their vehicles. The wreckage was engulfed in heavy fire.
If no one had stopped and pulled them out, he said, they would have been burned. The fire was all over. Thats without a doubt. The Good Samaritans pulled them out of the cars because there was no way they were getting out, and they did get them back out.
Its normally not advisable to remove someone from a wreckage because it could worsen their injuries, but with the flames still rising, there was no other option, Swenson said.
Firefighters, including members of the Duncannon Fire Company, worked together to put out the fire, which by now had spread into the camper.
We had to cut a hole in the side of the camper and start pulling things out, including putting 'a mattress' out, Swenson said, describing how they had towed the fuel source for the fire to be able to completely extinguish it.
The truck that had been driven the wrong way had melted down to its frame.
The wrong-way driver died at the hospital. Michael Hoy, 64, of Daytona Beach, Florida, was later identified as Michael Hy.
It is unclear where he got onto the separate highway on the wrong side, or why, but bystanders reported swerving to avoid him six miles away, near the Fishing Creek exit. Residents in the area wondered if he had missed the wrong ramp and didnt know how to turn around. The matter is still under investigation, police said.
Randy L. Deibelbi, a 65-year-old resident of Fleetwood, Berks County, died as well, according to police. The passenger in his car is in the hospital with life-threatening injuries, police said.
While the rescuers efforts didn't save the drivers' lives, they saved the passenger and saved life by fire for the driver, which was as much as was possible given the dire situation, the firefighters added.
Sheaffer said she was heartbroken when I learned that they didnt make it. But maybe they got to have some closure with that extra time with their family, he added.
Sheaffer was proud of the way all of them worked together, especially the seamless way he interacted with Taylor and a still unidentified woman rescuer who appeared to have nursing skills.
Sheaffer stated, I saw mankind come together that night. Three people came together, and worked together and its something Ill never forget, says Jones.