A driver and a young passenger were badly hurt in a freeway accident Sunday but escaped more serious injuries when a quick-thinking driver with an extinguisher put out a fire, authorities said.
About 4:25 p.m., 36-year-old James Lawson of Bellflower was driving his Volkswagen bug convertible northbound on the San Gabriel River Freeway, just above the San Diego Freeway interchange, when he changed lanes and rammed into the back of a stalled Ford van in the center lane.
The driver of the stalled van, Raul Rodriguez of Norwalk, had gone to the side of the road to use the call box. Meanwhile, his vehicle burst into flames and spewed gasoline on the roadway from a ruptured gas tank caused by the crash.
The fire spread quickly toward the Volkswagen, about 75 feet behind, where three people were trapped inside. But authorities said the driver of a passing tanker truck grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out the blaze before it reached the Volkswagen.
"The fire would definitely have reached the front end of the VW--where the gas tanks are in those things--and it could've been real ugly," said CHP Officer Jeanne Jungers. "There's no way those guys could have gotten out."
A prying device had to be used to extract Lawson and a front-seat passenger, 13-year-old Paul Dykman of Lakewood. Lawson's son, 12-year-old Brendan, was riding in the back seat.