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Passersby rescue Bragg soldier from burning car

Posted July 3, 2009
Updated July 4, 2009

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— Passersby rescued a Fort Bragg soldier from a burning car after a single-vehicle wreck on New Bern Avenue shortly before midnight Thursday, Raleigh police said.

Passersby rescue Bragg soldier from burning car_01 Bragg soldier rescued from burning car

John Michael Dean, 19, a Palmerville, Mass., native stationed at Fort Bragg, and a comrade were scheduled to fly out of Raleigh-Durham International Airport at 7:30 a.m. Friday to begin a deployment.

"He came up from Fort Bragg with some friends, and he had been drinking before he left for Raleigh," Capt. Chris Bertram, with the Raleigh Police Department, said. "They went to City Limits Saloon, but he wasn't allowed in because he's 19-years-old, and so they asked him to wait in the car."

Dean, though, drove away in a 2004 Volkswagen passenger car. He was going 90 mph when he lost control on a curve at 1250 New Bern Ave., near the split with Edenton Street, according to the wreck report.

Two residents said they saw the wreck coming.

"People squeal their tires a lot around here. I didn't think anything of it until I saw him keep going," witness Mike Dickens said. "When he kept going, we said, 'He's gonna wreck.'"

"We saw him fly past," witness Paul Godette said. "Then he came back again, passed a couple cars, hit the median here. And then when he hit the curb, he jumped straight up in the air about as high as these trees and landed right here on this Raleigh sign."

The car landed vertically between a tree and a thick, reinforced stone wall, then burst into flames, witnesses said. Dean was ejected from the car but landed near the fire.

"When it happened, we took off running and seen the car on fire, saved him. And we just hope he's all right," Godette said.

Police credited the two men for pulling the soldier away from the flames and saving his life.

Dean was taken to WakeMed, where he was expected to undergo surgery Friday. He was listed in serious condition on Saturday.

Police said Dean will be charged with driving while impaired, provisional DWI, careless and reckless driving and a seat belt violation. The wreck report says he wasn't wearing a seat belt and results from a blood alcohol test are pending.

"We hope his family is with him, and I hope he'll be all right," Dickens said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Will B. Free 1 Jul 13, 2009

    The quick thinking on the part of these two young men saved a soldiers life. I think that they should be commended and reward for their heroic effort.

  • fatcat11 Jul 3, 2009

    He's lucky those guys were there to help...guess he doesn't have to go to Afgan. now....hard way to get out of it,tho...

  • 1Moms_View Jul 3, 2009

    The two young men who pulled him to safety deserve the recognition for what they did. Many people would have left him there. It sounds like they quickly took action while putting their own safety at risk.

    The soldier was wrong to drive drunk, but the person who bought the alcohol for him initially contributed significantly. If the car belonged to the person buying this soldier the alcohol, that would be a good lesson for him. I'm guessing that the military will deal with this soldier also for
    1. misconduct or whatever the term is when not on duty 2. missing his deployment date (since this was caused due to him participating in an illegal activity--underage drinking, wreckless driving. I could be wrong, but I'm sure some of the vets here can correct me if I am.

  • Winston Jul 3, 2009

    cgh...patience grasshopper

  • Winston Jul 3, 2009

    If this was the early 80's this might not have happened. It would have been legal for him to be inside the bar drinking with his buds.

  • SaltlifeLady Jul 3, 2009

    hmm, unusual that my comment not posted. Maybe because it questioned information in the article? But I know you only have to be 18 to get in City Limits because I was there last night with my friend, and my daughter and her friends, all of whom are 18.

  • SaltlifeLady Jul 3, 2009

    He must have been too drunk to get into City Limits, or not had anything but his military ID with him...the age of admittance there is 18, not 21.

  • sketch Jul 3, 2009

    why not just say someone was in a wreck instead of saying a soldier was..who cares what his occupation is..

  • LocalYokel Jul 3, 2009

    interesting story but bystanders should have left the bad driver alone after his self inflicted wreck and just called 911. The bad driver did not care about other people around him and could have easily killed someone going 90MPH, did he really need rescued???

  • mrduright Jul 3, 2009


    I can except that thank you