Two former St. George firefighters helped rescue a man after his car caught fire Tuesday night on Route 1 after crashing into a cement pillar on to the overpass near the Lorneville exit.
Troy Morton, who downplayed his heroic efforts, said he was on the way to Saint John to see a movie with his 14-year-old stepdaughter and her 12-year-old cousin when, as they were going through Lorneville, they saw a car on fire in the middle of the median.
“I pulled over quickly and told the kids to stay in the car and took off running.”
When he reached the burning vehicle he found another former firefighter and neighbour from St. George, Shane Watson, who was on his way home from work, and an off-duty police officer, Const. Corey McAllister had also stopped to help.
“They had just got there a minute before me. We started doing what we had to do. I didn’t think at first there was someone inside. I saw two people standing outside the car and, as I got closer, I saw Shane who is my neighbour. We were both on the fire department.”
Morton said Watson told him they needed his help as the driver was pinned against the steering wheel and still had his seatbelt on.
“We were trying to get him out and couldn’t get the seatbelt undone. The flames were getting closer. Corey McAllister still had his uniform on and he had a knife so he got that out and cut the seatbelt and we started pulling him out.
“His leg was shattered and he was screaming with pain. He didn’t want us pulling on him. I said we were sorry but we had to do this. We were trying to work around the air bags and it was not easy.
“We started dragging him away from the fire and he was just hollering in pain. We got him about 25 feet away and realized we were not far enough away from this thing.
“When we got him out, within 10 to 30 seconds that car was fully engulfed. He was extremely lucky. We started pulling him further and he was screaming for us to stop.
“I apologized and said we have to do this. There were explosions every five seconds and the tires were blowing off it but, fortunately, the gas tank didn’t explode.”
The driver, said Morton, turned out to be someone else from St. George, 47-year-old Colin O’Leary. By the time they had him out of the car a number of other people had stopped and emergency crews had been called.
“Within three or four minutes from the time we got him out, the fire department showed up. By the time they got there, the flames were about 20 feet in the air.”
Morton said he ran back to his car to get some blankets because the man was freezing and, at the same time, McAllister was holding his neck to keep him stabilized and had thrown his jacked over him.
They stayed with him until the ambulance arrived and Morton said he also tried to slow down the traffic because there were people everywhere.
“I used my phone and my flashlight and then I thought if I put a live video out there perhaps I can get this traffic slowed down before Spruce Lake.
“A nurse arrived and I went back to the site to try to keep him warm. I don’t think he knew where he was. He was in a lot of pain and he was freezing.”
Morton said he received a telephone call Wednesday night from Dave Bustard who used to live in St. George and had heard about the accident.
“He told me he drove past the accident and he wanted to stop but he was carrying explosives. Shane is his cousin and he and my father were great friends.”
Morton described the fact that the three men who rescued the driver happened to be at that spot at the same time as “divine intervention.”
“Shane was going west bound from Saint John, I was heading east bound to Saint John and the officer was taking a different route home than he normally does. That was divine intervention I would say.”
He said he understands the cause of the accident is under investigation by Saint John Police and the last he heard was that the driver was going into surgery when his sister called to thank him.
“I found the roads were fine. I don’t know what caused the accident. I have no idea how he hit one of the pillars on the overpass.”