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," Col. Phil Kasten of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office said in a statement Wednesday. "Their decisive actions were instrumental in keeping this accident from having a tragic outcome."
Police said Sykesville resident Dawn O'Croinin lost control of her vehicle before it left Bevridge Drive in Marriottsville onto a deep shoulder around 1:44 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 junior at Liberty High School, said he was the first person to arrive at the scene after he heard the accident while doing yardwork in the front yard of his parents' home on Ridge Road.
He estimated he was about 100 yards away from the accident at the time it occurred.
"I had never seen anything that bad, ever," he said of arriving on the scene. "I was preparing myself for the worst."
Shearer said O'Croinin was able to exit her Toyota minivan on her own 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 damaged to the point where they couldn't be opened, according to Shearer.
He said a motorcyclist stopped to help about a minute after he arrived.
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 substantial 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 subsequently shut down for about an hour because of the accident, according to police.
Kasten said Wednesday that the accident remains under investigation and charges, if there are any, are pending the outcome of the investigation.
O'Croinin declined to comment on the accident when reached by telephone Wednesday.