Local News

Passersby rescue Bragg soldier from burning car

Posted July 3, 2009 6:56 a.m. EDT
Updated July 4, 2009 3:29 p.m. EDT

— 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.

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.