One Dies In Fiery Washington Crash, Motorists Scramble To Save Three Others

MARYSVILLE, Wash. (AP) -- A truck driver and other motorists scrambled to save the lives of four people following a fiery three-car freeway crash in which one person died and seven were injured, state troopers said.

A southbound Ford Explorer crossed the median on Interstate 5 about 30 miles north of Seattle and slammed into two northbound vehicles, a Chevrolet Suburban and a Toyota Tundra pickup truck, shortly before 1:30 p.m. PST Wednesday.

The Explorer and Tundra burst into flames that also threatened to engulf the Suburban with five people inside, and a Mercedes Benz sport utility vehicle was hit by flying debris, Washington State Patrol trooper Lance Ramsay said.

``This is the worst crash I've seen in 13 years,'' Ramsay said.

``It looked like a house fire in the middle of the freeway,'' said Nathan Trauernicht, spokesman for the Marysville Fire Department.

A woman in the Suburban died, and the intense heat melted a window and tail lights before trucker Jim Swett, 68, of Sedro-Woolley, and other drivers managed to attach a towing strap from his rig to pull the mangled sport utility vehicle away from the flames.

Swett's quick thinking and heroics ``saved four lives,'' Ramsay said.

``It was hot, hot. It feels like I have a sunburn,'' Swett said. ``We were afraid the gas tank would blow.''

Others broke a window to get a woman out of one of the burning vehicles and used a crowbar to break open a door and get two children out of the Suburban, Swett said.

``It was a bunch of good, hardworking people who made the effort,'' he said. ``It makes you feel good that there are people out there to help.''

Firefighters used Jaws of Life equipment to free Martha Holschen, 47, of Bothell, the driver, and a second female from the Suburban, and both were flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with critical injuries.

The accident closed the freeway's northbound lanes north of Everett and traffic was detoured through Marysville through the evening rush hour, backing up traffic for miles.

The children, Keegan Holschen, 9, and Jake Holschen, 12, were listed in stable condition at Providence Everett Medical Center.

The driver of the Explorer, Juliann Odom, 22, of Bellevue, was in satisfactory condition at Harborview.

It was unclear whether the pickup driver, Johnny Henton, 68, of Oak Harbor, was hurt.