Nfld. & Labrador

Rescuers drag woman to safety moments before car engulfed in fire on Northern Peninsula

NL Hydro commended line worker Andrew Toope for his heroic efforts.

NL Hydro commended line worker Andrew Toope for his heroic efforts

Andrew Toope had flip flops on his feet when he sprung into action, helping save a woman from a burning car. He later discovered what was left of his flip flop, right. (Submitted by Andrew Toope)

Andrew Toope was just off work and driving south down the Northern Peninsula to his travel trailer in Cormack on Thursday evening when he spotted two women frantically waving on the side of the road.

It didn't take long for him to see what the fuss was about: a car upside down in a ditch. Music was blaring and flames nearly a metre high were licking up around the engine. 

"The two ladies were saying there's someone still in the vehicle," Toope said.

"I ran down over the bank partly. I could see her but the flames were coming from the engine compartment."

Toope said he checked with the drivers of the other vehicles who stopped for the fiery crash and asked for a fire extinguisher, with no luck.

With no other options, Toope said he and another young man, Scott Samms, began working to free the older woman from her seatbelt.

A third man, Jeff Walsh, joined Toope and Samms to get her over the embankment.

"Between me and him working together, we managed to get the seatbelt off her and we dragged her through the driver's side door," Toope said.

"Two or three of us cradle-carried her to the other side of the road and within moments that car was in flames."

Toope said the scene was like something from a movie, but he didn't hesitate to jump into action. He said just three or four minutes elapsed before the vehicle was completely engulfed and the horn began to sound.

Scott Samms, left, helped drag the woman from the burning vehicle. Jeff Walsh helped carry her safely over the embankment to the side of the road before the flames engulfed the car. (Submitted)

Wearing flip flops on his feet, Toope wasn't exactly prepared for a daring rescue, but he said he's no worse for wear.

He did lose one of his flip-flops in the moment and when he later went back to retrieve it, he found nothing but a charred piece of plastic.

The line worker from Port Saunders is getting accolades from his employer and fellow employees, but he said it was instinctual to help another person in distress. 

"I wouldn't be able to just stand on the side of the road and just watch a person burn alive in a car. We had to get her out."

The RCMP has notified Toope that the woman was transported to hospital in intensive care but they're hoping for a full recovery.

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Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.