A 15-year-old Liberty High School student and two passersby are being credited with helping a woman pull her three young children from a burning vehicle Tuesday afternoon in Marriottsville.

"We are grateful for the driver's quick reaction in removing her children, and that of the young man and two passing motorists for contacting 911 and assisting her in caring for the children," said Col. Phil Kasten of the Carroll County sheriff's office in a statement Wednesday. "Their decisive actions were instrumental in keeping this accident from having a tragic outcome."

Police said Dawn O'Croinin of Sykesville lost control of her vehicle before it left Bevridge Drive in Marriottsville and fell into a deep shoulder around 1:45 p.m. Tuesday. It then struck a support pole and a tree before coming to a stop when the engine compartment caught fire.

Michael Shearer, a rising junior at Liberty High School, said he was the first person at the scene after he heard the accident while doing yardwork on Ridge Road.

He estimated he was about 100 yards away when the accident happened.

"I had never seen anything that bad, ever," he said. "I was preparing myself for the worst."

Shearer said O'Croinin was able to get out of the Toyota minivan before the pair began to remove the children from the car.

They had to remove the children through the front because the side doors were too damaged to be opened, Shearer said. He said a motorcyclist also stopped to help.

While they worked to pull the children from the car, Shearer said, smoke was filling the van.

"It was getting pretty scary," he said.

Shortly after the third child was taken from the vehicle, the front end of the van was engulfed in flames, Shearer said. "It was an inferno," he said.

The sheriff's office reported no serious injuries and O'Croinin and her children were out of the vehicle when deputies arrived. They were taken to Howard County Hospital as a precaution. The roadway was shut down for about an hour, according to police.

Kasten said Wednesday that the accident remains under investigation. O'Croinin declined to comment on the accident when reached by telephone Wednesday.

bames@tribune.com