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EXCLUSIVE: Neighbors Saved Driver from Car Minutes Before Flames Engulfed It

(Updated 4:55 p.m.) At 10:50 p.m. on Friday, Patrick McNair and his wife Danielle were getting ready to bed when they heard a crash. In a few seconds, the power went out.

Outside their home along the 4800 block of Old Dominion Drive, near Marymount University, they saw a mangled car starting to smoke.

“I put shoes on and ran as quickly as I could,” Patrick tells ARLnow.

By the time he got there, the car was so full of smoke he could not see in and no response came from inside when he knocked on the window. The door would not budge.

As he was bracing himself to break the window with his hand, he remembered his son’s baseball bat was in his car. Danielle unlocked the car and Patrick retrieved the bat and broke the window. He described the driver as unresponsive, with cuts, scrapes and what appeared to be a broken leg.

Another neighbor, Roger Casalengo, arrived and the two men managed to get the driver out of the car. They set her down 25 feet away and she revived enough to tell them no one else was in the car.

“At this point, the entire front of the hood is on fire, and all under the hood is on fire,” McNair said. “By the time she was laid down, the car was engulfed in an inferno and the tree was on fire.”

Looking back, McNair said if he and his wife had just walked to the car, or waited for the police to arrive, “she would have absolutely been burned alive.”

Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said police were dispatched to the 4800 block of Old Dominion Drive at about 10:51 p.m.

“Upon arrival, it was determined that the driver was traveling westbound on Old Dominion Drive when she allegedly lost control of the vehicle and collided with a fire hydrant, utility box, tree and utility pole,” Savage said.

She confirmed the role the two men played in saving the girl and said Arlington County Fire Department extinguished the vehicle.

“The driver was transported to an area hospital with injuries considered non-life-threatening,” Savage said.

After an investigation, the driver — who was under the age of 18 — was charged with driving after consuming alcohol.

On Saturday, McNair said he connected with the driver’s mother, who updated him on the two nights her daughter spent in the hospital, recovering.

“She was just in tears and very thankful for our efforts that we were able to save her daughter,” he said. “It was a very crazy event but we were thankful and happy to have gotten her out of there.”

Photos courtesy Patrick McNair and Michael Lindsay

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