Multiple quick-thinking motorists worked in concert Friday night to rescue a Windsor man from a fiery wreck off Highway 101 after he crashed his pickup into a tree.
The CHP said drugs may have been a factor in the crash. Richard Shelton, 52, was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated after officers conducted a DUI investigation at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, CHP Sgt. Blair Hardcastle said.
Shelton was released from custody so the hospital could treat him for injuries that were major but not life-threatening, Hardcastle said.
The crash was reported at 7:16 p.m. when a northbound Dodge Dakota pickup crashed into a tree off Highway 101 past the Mendocino Avenue offramp, according to the CHP. Witnesses said the truck was traveling at a high rate of speed prior to the crash, Hardcastle said.
Around the time of the crash, Santa Rosa resident Michael Volkin and his wife, Audrey, were on their way back from dinner in Sebastopol.
After encountering traffic backed up on the freeway, they pulled over when they saw a truck ablaze.
Other vehicles were already pulled over, and four or five people were rushing to get someone out of the truck, Volkin said.
He described the driver as a “very heavyset guy” and said he could it tell it would take multiple people to remove him.
“He was in a very mangled-looking position. His face was covered in blood and it was all swollen,” Volkin said. “His legs looked like they were in an unnatural position.”
Volkin, a former Army sergeant who served in Iraq, said he used another motorist’s fire extinguisher to put out about a third of the flames but they quickly returned.
Adding to the difficult situation was the fact that the car had become elevated when it jammed into the tree.
It took six pairs of hands, two inside the truck cabin and four outside to remove the driver, Volkin said.
“I was amazed at the people that pulled over. They seemed so experienced,” he said.
Once outside the truck, the driver’s shirt was cut open to prepare him for first responders.
Audrey Volkin said everything happened in a matter of minutes.
“It was so fast, and it was incredible to see how many physically fit people were running toward this car that was in flames and in a tree,” she said. “It was amazing to see the community react like that.”
The slow lane of the freeway was blocked for about two hours after the crash. In addition to the CHP, Rincon Valley firefighters, Santa Rosa firefighters and Sonoma Life Support responded to the scene.
You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or email@example.com. On Twitter @thejdmorris.