Local News

Hero officer: Trapped driver kept yelling 'I can't get out!'

Posted June 19, 2009 5:55 a.m. EDT
Updated June 20, 2009 3:38 p.m. EDT

— A Fayetteville police officer who worked to save two people from a burning van Thursday night said he doesn't consider himself a hero, but he hopes the people who were injured survive.

The calls for help are etched in Officer Mark Jodoin's mind.

"(The driver) kept yelling over and over, 'I can't get out! I can't get out!,'" Jodoin recalled.

Jodoin responded to a two-vehicle wreck at Gillis Hill Road and Celtic Drive shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday. There, he saw fire coming from the front of a Chevy Astro van and two people trapped inside – Terry Coonfield, 46, of Raeford, and his mother, Ardella Coonfield.

Glen Coonfield, who identified himself as Ardella's oldest son, said his mother died after getting to the hospital.

'I knew we needed to get the people out'

Using an extinguisher, Jodoin worked feverishly trying get the mother and son out of the van.

"I knew we needed to get the people out of the van," Jodoin said. "The fire was engulfing the entire engine compartment. I had to bend the door frame from the top upper corner down to the handle in order to get enough room to try and get the guy out."

The officer, who has been on the force nine years, had to use his extinguisher three times because the flames kept reigniting.

"That's what I was worried about, was it was going to get bad enough where I wasn't going to have a chance to get the people out," he said.

Firefighters got to the scene a short time later and helped Jodoin with the rescue. Emergency teams were able to cut the Coonfields out of the van.

Crews took the Coonfields to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, where Ardella Coonfield died. Family members said that Terry Coonfield was in intensive care and had extensive but non-life-threatening injuries.

Glen Coonfield and his sister, Toni Cooksey, wrote to WRAL to thank Jodoin for helping their mother pass away in peace and rescuing their brother.

"Officer Jodoin deserves to be recognized as a hero, and he has my eternal gratitude for getting my brother and mother out before the fire got worse," Cooksey wrote.

Glen Coonfield said he was working as a contractor in Iraq and was flying home for the funeral.

Police said that Dana Royal, 20, of Perry Oliver Drive in Hope Mills, was responsible for the crash.

She was traveling northeast on Gillis Hill Road when she lost control of her vehicle, causing it to leave the road, police said. While attempting to return to the road, she over-corrected and crashed head-on into the Coonfield's oncoming van.

The impact caused the van to leave the road, come to rest in the bushes and catch fire, police said.

Royal suffered a serious brain injury, authorities said. She was airlifted to UNC Hospitals, where she was in critical condition. Police have not say whether they will file charges.