Cheryl A. Crecelius saved Jason K. Eaton and helped to save Mark A. Vanvleck from burning, Gaston, Oregon, March 29, 2014. Eaton and Vanvleck, both 25, were unconscious in the front seats of a sport utility vehicle that caught fire in a highway accident at night. Off duty, Crecelius, 46, sheriff’s deputy, responded from nearby, finding that both front doors of the vehicle were jammed shut. Despite flames issuing from the vehicle’s engine compartment and growing, Crecelius fully entered the passenger compartment through the vehicle’s rear, passenger-side door. After releasing both men’s safety belts, she reclined Eaton’s seat and, in repeated attempts, was successful in freeing and pulling him into the back-seat area. She backed from the vehicle, pulling Eaton out. Re-entering, with flames by then reaching the floor at the front of the passenger compartment, Crecelius pulled Vanvleck from the driver’s side to the passenger side, but he remained trapped by the feet. A motorist who had stopped at the scene took Crecelius’s place inside the vehicle, and he was successful in freeing and removing Vanvleck. Crecelius and the motorist then moved Vanvleck and Eaton farther away to safety. Vanvleck and Eaton required hospital treatment, and Crecelius suffered minor smoke inhalation, from which she recovered.
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