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Local News in Brief : 2 Die, 2 Pulled to Safety After Fiery Head-On Collision on I-5

March 14, 1986

The Highway Patrol has credited a Bakersfield salesman and four truck drivers with rescuing two people from a burning automobile in which two others died after a head-on collision with a motor home on Interstate 5 near Newhall.

Reaching into the burning car, the rescuers pulled the driver, Paul Swanson, 26, of Sepulveda, and Josh Sallaz, 5, of Lebec to safety, Fred Oakes of the Highway Patrol's Newhall office said.

Swanson and Sallaz were in serious condition at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Thursday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The other two passengers died in the car as flames engulfed it, Oakes said.

The coroner's office identified them Thursday as Sandra Contreras, 29, of Lebec, and her infant son, Joseph Swanson. Sallaz is Contreras' son by a former marriage, Oakes said.

Oakes said Swanson, driving south on Interstate 5 about a half mile north of Templin Highway, lost control when his left front tire blew out about 2 p.m. Wednesday. The 1974 Mercury crossed the divider and hit the motor home. The motor home came to rest on top of the car and caught fire, Oakes said.

James Kelly, 68, and his wife, Phillis, 69, of Seattle got out of the burning motor home without serious injury, Oakes said.

Bakersfield salesman Deyane Leiby, the first of the five men who stopped to help, pulled Sallaz out through the back window of the car, Oakes said.

Then truck drivers Joseph D. Smith, Larry Harville and brothers Paul and Joe Rios used snow chains to try to pull the car out from under the motor home. Oakes said there was an unconfirmed report that Smith finally backed his truck into the motor home to separate the two vehicles.

The four truck drivers were able to pull Paul Swanson from the car before flames engulfed it, Oakes said.

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