Bystanders, county official perform daring rescue

Published 9:48 am Thursday, October 22, 2009

AHOSKIE – Despite staring danger squarely in the face, a collective group of heroes are credited with saving the life of a Murfreesboro woman near here Monday.

Dianne Vaughan Bowser remains in serious condition at Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville after she was involved in a fiery accident.

Bowser, age 63, was knocked unconscious and trapped inside her 2000 Dodge van, which was on fire, as was a 2000 GMC van also involved in the wreck.

“Both vehicles were on fire when I arrived at the scene,” Hertford County Emergency Management Director Charles Jones said. “Some bystanders took my fire extinguisher to try to knock down the fire while I checked on the medical condition of the woman who was trapped in her van.”

As the fire intensified, Jones said he knew there was no other option than to quickly remove the woman from the van.

“I didn’t want to move her unless I had to, but there was no other choice in this situation…the fire was getting out of control,” Jones noted.

Reaching inside the front window of the van, knocked out of place due to the impact, Jones used a knife to cut the driver’s seat belt, hoping that would free the victim.

“That didn’t work, her feet were jammed under the dashboard,” Jones said. “The only way I could get to her was to enter the rear of the van and make my way to the front.”

Jones put that plan in action.

“By the time I was able to free her feet, the fire was inside the van, including blocking the path from which I entered,” Jones said.

He said the bystanders were able to pull Bowser through the hole in the front window. They then assisted Jones in escaping through the same hole.

“If she had not been able to come out that window, neither would I,” Jones added.

Jones shrugged off the notion that he was a hero.

“I wasn’t alone in this,” he stressed. “Everybody who was there did a great job. We were able to get her out.”

According to the accident report filed by North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Jason Jones, Bowser’s van was traveling east on Hall’s Siding Road (RP 1409) at 11:40 a.m. on Monday. Trooper Jones said Bowser apparently failed to stop at a stop sign at the Willoughby Road intersection (RP 1413). There, Bowser’s van was struck in the driver’s side by a 2000 GMC van, operated by Wanda Denise Montgomery, 38, of Aulander. Montgomery was traveling south on Willoughby Road.

Trooper Jones stated that following impact, both vehicles left the roadway, with the Dodge van turning over on its side. The GMC van caught fire, which ignited the Dodge van.

Montgomery was able to exit her van safely. She was transported to Roanoke-Chowan Hospital where she was treated and released.

Bowser was also taken to R-CH before being airlifted to Pitt Memorial.

Charges are pending, according to Trooper Jones.