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Hagerstown youths injured in car fire in New Jersey

July 28, 2005|by HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN

heatherk@herald-mail.com

Two Hagerstown youths sustained third-degree burns to their legs Tuesday when their family's minivan caught fire on Interstate 78 in New Jersey, New Jersey state police said.

Dominick DiMercurio Jr., 11, was listed in critical but stable condition Wednesday evening in the burn intensive care unit at St. Barnabus Medical Center in Livingston, N.J., and his sister, Melissa, 16, was in stable condition.

Their father, Dominick DiMercurio, 44, was driving his wife and three children westbound on the highway in a 1997 Pontiac Montana Tuesday afternoon when, at around 12:20 p.m., the vehicle in front of them launched a piece of metal debris into the air, said New Jersey State Police Officer Sgt. Stephen Jones. The object lodged under the van and, as DiMercurio pulled over from the left lane onto the right shoulder, the van became engulfed in flames, Jones said.

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All of the occupants got out of the vehicle, but not before the children's legs and the driver's right arm were burned. Police, fire and rescue squads soon arrived, and an ambulance took the three injured passengers to the hospital, Jones said. Donna, 44, and Nicholas, 8, were not injured and were taken to the hospital in a squad car. Dominick Sr. was treated for minor burns and released.

Jones said the metal object probably punctured the gas tank or a gas line, a rare but hazardous situation.

"A serious fire can whip up pretty quickly," Jones said. "When cars are moving, the amount of oxygen to the flames is increased and fires can very quickly get out of hand."

He said the best thing to do if a vehicle catches on fire is to get out and follow the classic advice to "stop, drop and roll."

"Of course it's hard because you can't jump out of a moving car and sometimes you don't even realize the vehicle's on fire until it's already significant," Jones added.

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