Tourists rescue victim from fiery car crash


A 22-year-old driver of a black BMW Z-3 Roadster was found lying by his burning vehicle and pulled to safety by a couple who were visiting from Tennessee.

The young driver was allegedly heading westbound on Pacific Coast Highway near Topanga Beach Road, at 75-plus mile per hour, before he lost control of his vehicle, spun around and crossed the center divider, hitting two eastbound vehicles at 9:04 p.m. on Monday. Four people were injured.

The vehicle first crashed head-on into a Mercedes that was eastbound in the left lane and continued to spin before it hit a Ford Thunderbird in the right lane. It came to rest near a residential wall bordering PCH and burst into flames, said a sheriffs’ official. The driver managed to get out of the car before it caught on fire.

“I don’t know how he got out,” said Detective Hugh Wahler of the Lost Hills Sheriffs Station. But Wahler indicated that the driver must have been wearing his seatbelt because he could not have survived the crash otherwise.

“You can’t survive an impact of that magnitude without a seat belt,” said the detective, who is still waiting on reports to find out how the driver got out of the car.

Mark Hopper and his fiancee, Rebecca Ritter, were driving right behind the Mercedes when they saw the BMW spinning as it approached the two cars ahead of them. The couple, who flew into California on Sunday from Tennessee, was returning from a day trip in Oxnard when they saw the vehicle swerving onto oncoming traffic.

They were first on the scene after the accident and saw the driver of the BMW laying next to his burning vehicle. In an effort to save him, Hopper screamed at a nearby onlooker for help. When someone came to assist him, Hopper moved the young driver away from danger while Ritter helped a shaken female driver out of her Thunderbird after the airbag had deployed.

Hopper said the firefighters and an ambulance arrived on the scene, followed by the sheriffs.

A total of three drivers and one passenger were injured in this accident.

When the sheriffs arrived, the BMW driver was found to be unconscious. He had lacerations on his face and a sprained neck and back. He was transported to UCLA by helicopter along with the older male driver of the Mercedes, who had a fractured left shoulder and abdominal and neck pain. The Mercedes driver’s passenger, who was transported to UCLA via ambulance, had a broken back, a fractured knee and pain in her left hand and neck.

The driver of the Thunderbird had chest, arms, back and neck pain, and she was released from the hospital.

Christian Little, owner of Pacific Parking Services, the valet company for which the young driver works, said he heard rumors circulating that the driver was on a joy ride with a customer’s car.

“It is completely false,” he said. The driver, who just started working for them, left work at 9 p.m. in his own car.

Sheriff’s deputies are currently investigating to find out if the driver of the BMW was drunk at the time of the accident, but his employer indicated that this was unlikely since he had just ended his shift with the valet company at a nearby business.