Officer and Bystanders Save Drivers

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SHENANDOAH -- A fiery crash in Schuylkill County led an off-duty police officer and some bystanders to become rescuers.

They are credited with saving the lives of drivers who were trapped in their burning vehicles Monday near Shenandoah.

A Schuylkill Transportation System mini-bus and a van crashed in Brandonville.  Witnesses said the van went through a stop sign. Off-duty Shenandoah police officer Robert Senape said he witnessed the crash.

"I first went to the S.T.S. bus and I could see that there was a female driver. She was unresponsive, she was slumped over the steering wheel.  I started yelling at her trying to get her attention. The driver of the white van was moving around and I could see there was fire under the white van," Officer Senape said.

That's when Officer Senape  and others sprang into action. That included neighbor Dennis Conti.

"I ran over there and got my two fire extinguishers and I have a heart condition and I laid them down and said 'here, use these.' I said 'I can`t do it' and they took the fire extinguishers and they tried to outen the fire and the flames were 50 feet in the air," Conti explained.

Officer Senape and bystanders could not get the van's doors open so they smashed a window and the injured driver got out. They then smashed a window of the mini bus. Officer Senape said with the fire getting larger, they pulled that driver to safety.

"We just had to get her out. There were no other options. We had to get her out as quickly as possible before the fire spread to the S.T.S. van," said Officer Senape.

Driver Paul Deebel said he's not surprised there has been another accident at the intersection.

"People don't stop at the stop sign, they pull out in front of everybody. Everybody is in a hurry."

Joann Conti lives across the street from the crash scene.  She too is not surprised about the latest crash.

"When I saw the flames go up, I thought the gas tanks or the propane tanks were going to blow up. They fly through here, they fly," said Conti.

A spokesman for PennDOT said the intersection averages a crash every year. East Union Township police said they have issued citations at the Route 339-924 intersection and promise to step up patrols as a result of the latest crash.