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Man rescued from burning van

April 16, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION And DAN KULINs

Two men pulled a motorist from a burning van in a dramatic rescue along Interstate 81 late Friday night, according to police and the men.

Timothy Eugene Moffitt II was traveling north on the interstate with his father and wife about 11:30 p.m. when they saw a van along the freeway that had overturned and was on fire.

Moffitt said he and his father, Timothy Eugene Moffitt Sr., pulled over and ran back to the van, which was under the Washington Street overpass.

When the two men reached the van, the fire had engulfed the engine and was spreading toward the cab, Moffitt said. Moffitt said he looked inside and saw the driver, who was still restrained in his safety belt and appeared to be unconscious.

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"I thought maybe he was dead," said Moffitt.

Moffitt said his father smashed the driver's side window while Moffitt got through the passenger door and crawled to the driver. Moffitt said he was struggling for some time trying to find the release button on the man's seat belt.

He was finally able to release the belt, and the driver, who was upside down, fell to the roof of the car.

Moffitt pulled the man from the car. The driver appeared to gain consciousness and told his rescuers that he was OK, Moffitt said.

"At that time, the fire was really bad. I was thinking, 'this car is going to blow up any moment,' " said Moffitt, who lives in Maugansville.

Numerous firetrucks rushed to the scene, and firefighters were able to safely extinguish the blaze.

The driver of the van, Walter Andrew Rasp, 23, of McConnellsburg, was not injured. He was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated and possessing drug paraphernalia, police reported.

Rasp was driving a 1991 Pontiac Transport van near the overpass when he began driving off of the right side of the highway on the outside of the guardrail, Maryland State Police said.

The van struck the guardrail, overturned and caught fire, police said.

Rasp's disposition could not be confirmed.

The Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway reported that the accident closed the northbound portion of the highway for about 30 minutes.

A third passerby, whom police identified as Charles farmer of Maugansville, also stopped to render assistance, police said.

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