SOAP LAKE — A Methow Valley woman was nearing the end of a 1,500-mile road trip early Saturday when she carried out a heroic highway rescue.
Candice Burt, 39, of Twisp came upon a one-car rollover along Highway 17 near Soap Lake just after 1 a.m., with the driver trapped inside and the car on fire. Candice called 911 and pulled the driver from the wreck, just before the vehicle — a 2005 Acura TL lying on its passenger side — went up in flames.
“I couldn’t see into the car because it was filled with smoke, and there was fire in the grass around it, and on the underside of the car,” Burt said Monday.
Still on the phone with emergency dispatchers, Burt pounded on the car windows, tried and failed to pull the driver door open, and finally snapped the sunroof off with her bare hands and tugged the driver out, once he had regained consciousness and unfastened the seatbelt that held him suspended behind the wheel.
State Patrol Trooper John Bryant said the driver in that crash, 31-year-old Shaun Hagerty of Moses Lake, suffered burns to his leg and right torso, but was treated and released from Columbia Basin Hospital in Ephrata. He faces a charge of DUI.
Bryant said Hagerty’s Acura veered off the roadway while northbound on Highway 17, near milepost 73. The car struck a boulder and flipped end-over-end, before coming to rest on its passenger side and catching fire with Hagerty unconscious and still belted in.
One of Burt’s shoes was destroyed in the rescue as she kicked at the Hagerty’s pants leg to extinguish flames on his clothes. She was uninjured, and kept Hagerty company until police and rescue personnel arrived.
Burt is the founder of Destination Trail, which creates and organizes trail running events throughout the West and Northwest. She moved from Leavenworth to the town of Twisp last summer. A competitive ultra-runner herself, who regularly completes footraces of 100 miles and longer, she was heading back from a major competition in Arizona when she encountered the crash.
“I just think that we have to keep our eyes open, and we have to be willing to help out people we don’t know in really horrible situations,” she said. “… It’s really important for us to do what we can for other people, whenever we can. And in this case, stopping and calling 911 and trying to help — there’s not really any other choice.”