Caught on video: Man tries to rescue driver from fiery, deadly crash
A man told KATU he tried to rescue a driver from a fiery, deadly crash off Interstate 5 near Ridgefield.
He later found out the man was someone he knows.
KATU also learned there was some confusion for firefighters as they responded to the crash.
It happened off I-5 near Northeast 194th Street and Northeast Delfel Road at around 11:50 p.m. Tuesday. A spokesman for Clark County Fire & Rescue told a KATU reporter that the area is actually in their jurisdiction. But he said another agency, Clark County Fire District 6, wound up being dispatched due to confusion about the location from callers and the fact that the crash location is near the boundary between the two jurisdictions.
Bryan Baum, a captain and spokesperson for Fire District 6, said the first 911 call came in around 11:51 p.m. and that a computer system recommended dispatching fire engines from Hazel Dell and Salmon Springs. Baum said the firefighters were dispatched at 11:52 p.m. and first arrived on scene about six minutes later.
On Thursday, charred bark was still visible on the trees where the vehicle crashed and the driver died.
Steven Gorbet and his wife, who live in the Dalles, were coming home from a hunting trip late Tuesday night. He said they were driving on I-5 near Ridgefield when they saw a fire on the side of the road and a car parked next to it
"I just thought it was a brush fire and told my wife to pull over and pulled over and noticed it was an actual car," Gorbet told a KATU reporter.
Washington State Patrol said it was an SUV. A trooper said two vehicles were driving south on I-5 when one, the SUV, hit the car on its rear. The SUV then left the freeway, hit a tree and the ditch and caught fire.
“My wife was videotaping the whole thing and taking pictures," Gorbet explained.
He said he grabbed a fire extinguisher from the trunk and went to work.
“Once my fire extinguisher ran out someone was yelling, ‘Somebody’s in there. Somebody’s in there,'" he said. "Then I went around a tree and tried busting out the window, used my knife. Had to hit it about four times for it to finally break. ... I looked in there and seen the guy hangin’ there. ... I reached for the seat belt and then the seat belt wasn’t connected. Then I tried pulling him out and he was unconscious so it was kind of hard to pull him. He was snagged somewhere. I couldn’t get him out. ... In the midst of trying to do all that the fire escalated pretty bad and ended up going inside the cab. And then I hear you know, a big boom and everyone’s just yellin’, ‘get out of there. Get out of there!’”
Gorbet said he then ran away.
“I didn’t see him. I didn’t see the face ‘cause I just got the back of him," he said. "I wish I could’ve done more like if I could’ve suffered a few burns from the fire, you know, I would’ve.”
A Washington State Patrol spokesperson would not confirm Gorbet's claims.
Troopers said the other driver stopped and is OK. They have not released the victim's name.
Gorbet said he later found out the victim is a man he used to work with.
“I just got good memories of him from working on job sites," he said. “Always cracking jokes and trying to … he was always, always a funny guy.”