Deputies, firefighters save USF student from car fire - WFLA News Channel 8

Deputies, firefighters save USF student from car fire

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Anne Marie Fanning might not ever remember the chaos happening around her that Saturday night: The screaming witnesses who dialed 911 or the sound of the machines that carefully cut her from her Mazda 6 sedan.

But those are minutes Hillsborough Co. deputies Steve Figueredo and David Webb and Fire Rescue team members Lt. Casie Pritchard and Walt Andrews won't soon forget.

"I told her when I got in the car - I'm not leaving without you," said Lt. Pritchard.

Minutes earlier, according to investigators, 38 year-old Donald Ward, of School Road in Land O Lakes, ran a stop sign on Providence Road, crossed the westbound lanes, struck the raised median and struck Fanning's Mazda in her driver's door.

Witnesses had a hard time processing what they were seeing.

"There's people in the car. It's on fire," screamed a 911 caller who was crying. "There's people in there. It's on fire...they can't get out."

Gas was leaking from Ward's GMC Envoy SUV and flames were starting to come from the engine. Deputies Figueredo and Webb knew they didn't have much time. They were the first on the scene.

"When I saw the fire, I immediately went up to my trunk, got my fire extinguisher out, and started working on the fire," Figueredo said.

But one wasn't enough.

"Every time we'd start to put it out, it would start back up again," Webb said.

They found more where they could, even using one from a nearby apartment complex.

"I think we ended up using six fire extinguishers," Webb said.

They shielded Anne Marie from the fire until Hillsborough County Fire rescuers made it to the scene. Driver Engineer Walt Andrew knew how serious it was.

"I knew right away time was of the essence," he remembers.

Lt. Pritchard has seen accident where cars wind up on top of others before, but this one was different.

"I didn't even know there was a patient in the vehicle until one of the deputies said 'there's somebody in there,'" she said. "I looked around and I couldn't see her until I got right up to the vehicle because of how she was positioned in the car."

She crawled in the passenger side and saw the patient in the front seat. Anne Marie was still in her seatbelt, lying between the front driver and passenger seats.

"She was semi-conscious - she was making nose and moaning," Pritchard remembers.

Those first responders might've been saving a complete stranger, but to Anne Marie's family they were saving the 22-year-old girl they love: The USF college senior who will graduate with an accounting degree after one more semester; the lively runner who's played volleyball all of her life.

"We're just amazed for what they all do in order to risk their lives to save somebody's daughter or son or father," said her mother, Yolanda Fanning, after she met the men and women who saved Anne Marie's life. "They will always be a part of our lives."

Anne Marie's brother Billy said she has many broken bones and her jaw is wired shut at this point, but the family expects her to recover, thanks to those who saved her.

"Everyone knows their job is to serve and protect. You don't realize how much they truly do for you until you need them in a time of need," Billy said in the crowd of first responders. "You guys saved my sister's life. I'm forever in debt to you guys."

On top of all the emotion in this story, investigators say the man who hit Anne Marie ran off after the accident. Hillsborough Co. deputies used a helicopter to find Donald Ward hiding near a pond close by. They say he smelled like alcohol but refused a field sobriety test. He's facing a charge of leaving the scene of an accident with injures but blood tests are still pending.

 

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