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Fiery crash on I-70 sparked ‘magnificent’ response by witnesses

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo — When a wrong-way driver sparked a fiery crash on Interstate 70 in Grand Junction on Monday, police said the response from witnesses was “magnificent.”

According to the Grand Junction Police Department, a man in a Honda Accord was driving westbound in the eastbound lanes a little before 3 p.m. The car collided head-on with a Ford SUV near the 27 Road overpass.

A police officer who responded to the crash described the situation in a release by the department.

“When I arrived, a male was trapped in a Honda Accord near the median and a Ford sport utility vehicle in the eastbound lanes was fully engulfed,” the officer stated.

The officer said more than a dozen people had stopped, and helped pull a woman and a little girl out of the SUV.

“The SUV was emitting loud ‘booming’ and ‘popping’ noises and I believe nearly everyone at the scene thought it could very well explode,” the officer said.

The officer said witnesses had used a tarp to carry the woman away from the vehicle.

“Others stood with another tarp elevated over the female to shade her from the sun; temperatures were near 100 degrees,” the officer stated.

A nurse who stopped to help placed the girl, believed to be 5 to 7 years old, in her personal vehicle and remained with the child until EMS arrived, according to the officer.

“Had these individuals not acted so immediately and decisively, both the woman and her child would have surely perished,” the officer said.

As witnesses worked to help the crash victims, fire from the wreck quickly spread to the brush on the side of the highway.

The officer said the flames began climbing the embankment, toward homes on Marsh Lane and Continental Court.

“I spoke with two males who had stopped on 27 Road to the north of I70 when they saw the fire on the southern embankment. The males had climbed numerous fences on the south side of I70 in an attempt to slow the fire and warn residents,” the officer said.

“I also spoke with others who had thrown buckets of water on the fire as well as some who used personal extinguishers in attempts to prevent the fire from threatening homes and property.

“The overall response from bystanders was, I thought, magnificent.”

“I regret that I was not able to obtain the names of all of those who provided assistance in this event.  I was hoping, either through social media or mass communication, the Grand Junction Police Department could make an attempt to recognize and thank all of those who rendered their help in any way they could with this incident.”

The police department also praised the people who stopped to help.

“We don’t know the names of all of those who stopped to help after this crash,” police said in a statement. “We don’t know if they were local community members, or simply traveling through.

“What we do know is that, without the aid of these brave and selfless people, the outcome of this tragic incident could have been much different.  If this message reaches any of you, please know that you have our gratitude and admiration.”

The police department included one additional bit of information about the young victim in the crash.

“Additionally, we were made aware this morning that the only possession that made it out of the vehicle with the juvenile female was a pink blanket,” police said.

“The blanket was wet and dirty from the crash.  It was transported to St. Mary’s Hospital, where the staff there saw to it that is was laundered, so that the little girl could have that small piece of comfort.”