Deputy saves 2 from burning car west of Portland

They were unconscious following crash Saturday night near Gaston, Ore.

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PORTLAND (AP) — An off-duty Washington County sheriff’s deputy pulled two unconscious men from a car that caught fire after a crash near Gaston.

Sheriff’s Cpl. Cheryl Crecelius happened upon a crash scene Saturday night, The Oregonian reported Sunday. The sheriff’s office says that a 1994 Jeep Cherokee driven by Mark Vanbleck was traveling at a high rate of speed and crashed.

It went through a stop sign, left the roadway, hit two drainage culverts and two trees before landing upright. The force of the crash was so great that the engine and transmission were separated from the vehicle, with the transmission coming to rest 46 feet away.

There were two others in the Jeep besides Vanbleck. Christian Bandmann, 23, sitting in the back seat, escaped through the right rear door.

Crecelius saw that the two others were unconscious, but all other doors were jammed shut and the fire was beginning to move into the passenger area of the vehicle.

She pulled front seat passenger Jason Easton, 25, backward through the right rear door. By now, the vehicle was filling with smoke.

She put him on the ground away from the vehicle, and went back for the driver. But Vanbleck’s legs were pinned between the dash and the seat, and flames were starting to come through the floorboard.

Crecelius got out of the vehicle to get help. An unidentified male in his 20s stopped and got into the burning Jeep with Crecelius. Together, they were able to pull the driver out of vehicle before it was fully engulfed in flames.

The sheriff’s office says all three men were taken to the hospital for non-life threatening injuries. Crecelius received a minor injury to her hand and suffered minor smoke inhalation.

Deputies are searching for the unidentified man who helped Crecelius at the scene.

The sheriff’s office said Vanbleck, 23, has been charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants, reckless driving and assault. Authorities say there could be additional charges as the investigation continues.