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Deliveryman tells of pulling woman from fiery Burbank crash

October 02, 2013|By Jason Wells

The deliveryman had just pulled 18-year-old Savannah Underwood from the burning wreckage of a Nissan early Saturday in Burbank when she starting yelling for her friends.

There was so much smoke as flames overtook the car that Juan Ganaja thought Underwood was the sole occupant as he rushed to pull her away.

"She told me, you know, 'My friends are inside,’ and so I turned around and the car, it was really bad already. There was fire all over the car,” Ganaja told NBC4-TV.

Five teens and young adults were killed when the Nissan they were in slammed into a concrete pillar near the Scott Road off-ramp of the 5 Freeway and burst into flames shortly after 4 a.m. Saturday. As of Wednesday, L.A. County coroner's officials had yet to confirm their identities.

Underwood's mother, Valerie Lucas, told reporters Tuesday that her daughter was saved after Ganaja "heard her screaming and he was able to literally drag her away from the vehicle.”

Underwood sustained broken bones in her right leg and a crushed pelvis, but her attorney, John Gantus, told the Burbank Leader that she was doing "incredibly well given the circumstances."

In a statement, she said she was "deeply grateful" to the Hook Burger deliveryman who was there moments after the crash, as well as the first responders and doctors.

The deadly crash shocked many in the community, including longtime police officers, who said it was among the worst they'd seen in years.

The Burbank City Council on Tuesday held a moment of silence for the victims, with some of their friends and family members in the audience.

An investigation into the cause of the crash remained ongoing, although authorities have said they believe speed may have been a factor.

Katherine Laprell, a former Burroughs student who recently saw one of the victims, told the Burbank Leader she was still in shock over the news days after the crash.

“People need to be more careful – I really hope this is a wake-up call for everybody,” Laprell said. “I’ve never had a tragic loss like this happen.”

A vigil at the crash site grew quickly over the last few days as friends stopped to remember the victims and share their grief.

Ganaja, connected to the tragedy by its immediate aftermath, also offered his condolences to the victims' families and friends.

“I feel so bad for them," he told NBC4.


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Times Community News staff writer Alene Tchekmedyian contributed to this report.

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