ESCONDIDO (CNS) - Bystanders and off-duty sheriff's deputies were credited with saving a trapped man from being burned inside a sedan hit in a fiery chain reaction crash on Interstate 15 in Escondido, fire and California Highway Patrol officials said Sunday.
The fire may have been caused when a truck hit a stopped sedan, authorities said.
CHP reports said a 47-year-old Escondido man was driving a 2008 Freightliner flatbed truck at between 45 and 55 miles per hour headed south in the freeway's right lane about 1 p.m. Saturday, according to CHP Officer Jim Bettencourt.
He braked to avoid backed up traffic at the Via Rancho Parkway offramp, but rear-ended a 2007 Chevy Malibu sedan, Bettencourt said.
That crash caused a chain reaction that involved those vehicles, a 2007 Pontiac G6 and a 2004 Toyota Solara, he said.
The Malibu became wedged under the truck in the crash and caught fire, Bettencourt said.
Bystanders and three off-duty sheriff's deputies assisted the Malibu's driver and kept him from being burned, according to Battalion Chief Ken Slaven of the Escondido Fire Department.
Escondido firefighters had to battle the fire while extricating the man from the heavily damaged vehicle, Slaven said.
He was then flown to UC San Diego Medical Center to be treated for major injuries, Bettencourt said, adding that man's age and place of residence remained unknown.
The Pontiac's driver, a 21-year-old Escondido woman, and passengers, a 21-year-old Camp Pendleton man and a 1-year-old child, were taken to Palomar Medical Center to be treated for minor to moderate injuries, Bettencourt said.
The Toyota's driver, a San Diego man, was not injured, Bettencourt said, and neither drugs nor alcohol were suspected in the crash.
The southbound side of the freeway was closed following the crash, according to the CHP. The crash was initially reported by the CHP in the freeway's HOV lanes.