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Passerby pulls man from fiery car wreck

By Seth Burkett . 340-2355

A Decatur native probably saved a Hartselle man's life by pulling him from a fiery car crash Monday night, Decatur police said.

James Beavers, 24, remained in serious condition Tuesday, according to a Huntsville Hospital spokeswoman.

Beavers was driving south on Danville Road near San Souci Cave Road at about 9 p.m. when he left the roadway, crashing into a garbage heap and striking a tree, said Decatur police officer Justin Lyons, who is investigating the accident.

The crash crushed the front passenger side of the car and threw the vehicle into a ditch, strewing trash along the roadside.

Beavers, who was not wearing a seat belt, was partially ejected on the passenger side and trapped. The vehicle caught fire, Lyons said.

John Pete, 27, of Birmingham, said he was at a relative's house nearby and heard the collision.

"I heard a car screeching. It was a sound I'd never really heard before, but clearly it was a car, and multiple impacts. I figured it was kind of late and maybe nobody would come up on it soon, so I might better go check on it. I drove up on it, and there the car was, sitting off to the side of the road in a ditch, on fire."

Pete said the flames that sprang from the car's front were spreading halfway up the hood.

Beavers' midsection was behind the passenger seat, his were feet behind driver seat, and his upper torso was sticking out of the car with the passenger door bent around him, wedging him between the door and the vehicle's frame.

"I couldn't believe that the impact didn't cut him in two," Pete said. "... An older gentleman had tried and tried to get him out, but just wasn't able to, he was pinned in there so tight.

"I grabbed the door and braced myself and pulled on it. By that time, the flames were almost to the dash. It was hot to me, so it had to be hot to him. I didn't want to move him because he was injured, but the flames were getting closer, and he would've burned up. In a last-ditch effort, I pulled the door one more time and got it open a little bit more, and I was able to put both of my arms underneath his armpits and pull him towards me."

Pete said he and other bystanders carried Beavers about 50 feet from the wreckage. Just when he thought he could rest, the fire's heat intensified and they decided to move Beavers another 50 feet or so just to be safe.

"I had no idea how fast the car would burn," Pete said. "It couldn't have been more that a couple of minutes. By the time the fire department got there to put it out, the whole cab had been engulfed."

Lyons said the hasty extrication probably saved Beavers' life.

Pete said the other passersby who tried to free Beavers, helped keep him calm and tried to put the fire out, deserve credit, too.

Though conscious, Beavers appeared to have suffered head trauma, Pete said.

MedFlight landed in a field near the scene and transported Beavers to Huntsville Hospital. He was being treated in the hospital's surgical intensive care unit Tuesday.

Lyons said the wreck remains under investigation, but police believe alcohol was a factor.

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