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Santa Rosa man rescues driver from fiery crash

A Santa Rosa man's quick action Saturday likely saved another man from a fiery fate after he became trapped in a burning car, the CHP said.

Andrew Verrier, 28, was asleep in his girlfriend's apartment near the Baker Avenue onramp to Highway 101 when he was awakened about 6:50 a.m. by the sound of screeching tires and a loud crash.

Verrier ran outside in his socks and sweatpants in time to see a dustcloud and skid marks leading over the edge of the road, he said.

He jumped a fence and found an overturned Volvo wagon with flames shooting from the engine compartment. Someone was inside, banging on the window, he said.

“I heard him hitting the window with his hands,” he said. “He couldn't get out.”

That's when another bystander tossed Verrier a rock and he used it to break the driver's side window.

A badly shaken Nestor Medina, 29, also of Santa Rosa, climbed to safety as flames spread to the rest of his car.

“He was very appreciative,” said Verrier, a motorcycle mechanic originally from Charlestown, Mass. “He tried to give me a hug and all that. I saw rosary beads on his wrist. I told him that's what saved you.”

CHP Officer Matt Pinheiro confirmed the account. He said Medina apparently lost control of his car after driving too fast on the southbound onramp to the freeway.

His car flipped onto its roof into a small creek and its doors became jammed shut, he said.

“He was pinned in the vehicle,” Pinheiro said. “It began to light on fire.”

Medina could have been killed or seriously injured without Verrier's help, Pinheiro said.

Instead, he escaped with moderate injuries, Pinheiro said.

“If (Verrier) didn't come along, the chances of him getting out of the car were very slim,” Pinheiro said.

Verrier shrugged off any suggestion that he saved a man's life.

“I try not to think too much on that,” he said. “I'm happy I did help him out there.”

Hazardous materials crews cleaned up a small amount of vehicle fluids and oil that ran into the creek, the officer said.

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com.

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