James R. Carroll helped to save Shelton T. Smith from burning, Middletown, Connecticut, July 16, 2017. Smith, 38, was unconscious and seat-belted in a sedan after an accident on a highway at night. As the front of Smith’s wrecked vehicle caught fire on the highway where it had come to rest, a power station electrician stopped his car, called 911, and moved to the burning sedan where he made initial unsuccessful efforts to enter Smith’s car. The electrician retrieved a tire iron and returned to Smith’s car. Carroll, 65, teacher’s aide, who was driving on the same highway, stopped to help the electrician, who broke the rear, driver’s-side window with the tire iron, opened the rear door, and crawled into the back seat. Unable to release Smith’s seat belt from that position, the electrician exited the car. The electrician then broke the driver’s window, and Carroll pulled open the driver’s door. Carroll then held open the door as the electrician extended his upper body into the car in an unsuccessful effort to unlatch the seat belt. The electrician ultimately exited due to increasing flame inside the car. Carroll also extended his upper body across Smith and tried unsuccessfully to release the seat belt before retreating. Carroll then used a pocketknife to cut the belt at Smith’s lap and shoulder. Carroll maneuvered behind Smith while pushing him forward, so he could grasp Smith beneath his right arm. The electrician grasped Smith beneath his left arm, and both men twisted Smith’s torso toward the open car door and pulled. Smith’s shoes caught beneath the dash, and the two men pulled harder, ultimately removing Smith from the vehicle. Carroll and the electrician then dragged Smith to safety near the rear of the car before a third bystander helped them carry Smith farther away. An arriving state trooper using a fire extinguisher attempted to extinguish the fire but was not successful and the car was shortly engulfed. Smith was treated for minor crash injuries but was not burned. Carroll and the electrician were not burned, though hair on their arms was singed. Carroll also aggravated a previous back injury, but recovered.
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