By Natalie Johnson / The Chronicle (Centralia)
An off-duty Seattle firefighter driving south on I-5 Tuesday morning stopped and pulled a man from a flaming pickup truck, possibly saving his life, said Chief Ken Cardinale of the Chehalis Fire Department.
“There was a hero on the scene,” he said. “He was just on his way to work and came upon the accident and the most serious injury was in the pickup truck, and the pickup truck was on fire. He pulled him out of the truck and started administering first aid.”
The injured man, identified by the state patrol as James P. Holmes, 54, of Centralia, was driving a 1998 Dodge pickup truck which struck the freeway’s jersey barrier, was hit by two semi-trucks and rolled before catching fire. He had a serious head injury and was later airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Cardinale said.
“He remained on scene to help the paramedics,” he said. “He was a great help to everybody.”
The firefighter only gave his first name — Chris — before heading on his way.
According to the Washington State Patrol, unspecified charges are pending against Holmes. It is unknown if drugs or alcohol played a role in the incident.
The crash was first reported at 4:10 a.m. this morning on southbound I-5 near Labree Road in Chehalis, according to trooper Will Finn of the Washington State Patrol.
According to a press release from the state patrol, Holmes’ truck reportedly lost control for an unknown reason and hit the jersey barrier between south and northbound lanes, pushing the barrier into northbound traffic.
The truck was then hit by a semi truck, moving it further down the freeway, Finn said. At that point, a second semi hit the truck, which rolled and caught fire.
The driver of the first semi truck, identified by the state patrol as David A. Hawkins, 41, of Vancouver, got out of his truck to assess the scene and had a medical event, Finn said, causing him to go into cardiac arrest. He was transported to a local hospital.
The second semi driver, identified as Warren E. Cortesi, 62, of Tacoma, was not injured.
Shortly after the crash in the southbound lanes, a passenger car struck the portion of jersey barrier moved into the northbound lanes, Finn said.
One of the three occupants in that vehicle, identified as Tony C. Kim, 40, of Olympia was injured and transported to Providence Centralia Hospital with minor injuries.
As of about 8 a.m. Tuesday, all of southbound I-5 was still closed at Labree Road, Finn said.
The pickup truck was carrying construction supplies. When it rolled, nails and other items were strewn all over the road.
“We can’t really have motorists coming through until we’re able to clean that up,” Finn said.”
Troopers set up a detour route for motorists.
Northbound lanes were open at 8 a.m., but traffic was still backed up, Finn said.