Four bystanders pulled a driver from her burning sport-utility vehicle, carrying her to safety about 25 feet away after seeing the rear end of her Jeep Liberty ignite.
The single-vehicle incident occurred after the female driver — Timberly Sue Trueblood, 50, of Columbus — who was alone in the car, crossed a median in the parking lot of FairOaks Mall and proceeded across Herman Darlage Drive at 7 p.m. Tuesday, landing in a grassy area on the east side of the street, witnesses said.
She was rescued by the male bystanders after they used a tire iron to break a window out.
The driver’s rear wheels were spinning in the grass, and eye witness Mike Brogdon of Franklin worried that the friction might ignite a fire — which is what occurred moments later, he said.
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Brogdon and Amanda Waltz of Columbus were in The Republic’s parking lot across the street when they heard and saw what happened, the two Republic employees said. Both ran across Herman Darlage Drive to help.
At that same time, three Columbus men who had just pulled into Steak ‘n Shake for dinner saw smoke and fire just south of the restaurant parking lot and also ran to help.
Nelson Shelton, Matt Luttrell and Lane Richie, all of Columbus, worked with Brogdon to pull the woman to safety after Luttrell used a tire iron — donated by an unnamed bystander — to break out the driver’s side window.
The driver was removed from the vehicle before it became fully engulfed, and paramedics worked on her at the scene before taking her to Columbus Regional Hospital, where her condition was not immediately available.
“We could not have gotten her out without the tire iron,” Brogdon said.
Paramedics treated Trueblood before she was taken to the hospital. Columbus police said Wednesday they believe the accident was due to a medical issue.
Columbus Fire Department firefighters used a hose to extinguish the fire by 7:05 p.m., and the scene was cleared by 8 p.m.