Daniel Howard was on his way home after spending time in Oregon last May. He had been in Oregon recovering from an injury he sustained while working for the fire department. Near Tacoma, Howard saw a white car cross several lanes of traffic in front of him, and race ahead along the shoulder passing the other vehicles. “At that point I started following them and I called 911 to report I was following a possible DUI,” Howard said, though as he would find out later, the driver’s lack of control was because of a medical emergency.
The white car swerved in and out of traffic, hitting the center wall twice, and nearly colliding with several other vehicles. Howard switched on his volunteer emergency lights, effectively warning other drivers to keep their distance, and continued to follow. The car left the freeway on a bus only exit, ran a stop sign, and got back on the freeway, shooting right back into traffic. “They darted back into traffic again and then finally got off on exit 147, Kent Area, doing about 70 mph when they hit a small curb and went airborne through a busy intersection.” Howard saw the vehicle climb the on ramp, hit another curb, go airborne again and catch fire. It landed in a ditch near a crowded bus stop.
“I told dispatch the location and that they had crashed, the car was on fire, and the people where trapped,” he
said. “I dropped my phone and grabbed my fire extinguisher. By the time I got to the car, it was so full of smoke
I couldn’t see inside at all.”
A state trooper arrived on the scene to help. The trooper did his best to control the flames while Howard
attempted to pry open the driver’s side door.
“I then realized there were two passengers and saw that the fire was making its way to the passenger side of the
car. I decided to help get the female passenger out first.”
Howard rescued her from the car, and handed her off to helpful hands nearby. Together, Howard and the trooper were able to pull the male passenger safely out of the burning vehicle.
Moments afterward, the firewall was breached and the entire vehicle was engulfed in flames. Had Daniel Howard and the state trooper been slower to act, both passengers would have been killed. Howard received the Red Cross
Real Heroes “Always on Duty Award” for the rescue.