When Eastern Adams County, Pa., officer Richard H. Phillips, 40, caught the back end of a tractor-trailer at the intersection of U.S. 30 and state road 94 south of Harrisburg in rural eastern Pennsylvania, he was in pursuit of a small car flying eastbound on 30 for unreported reasons, and when his vehicle burst into flames he suffered what is being described as a “critical” injury. But the account published at the law-enforcement news site Officer.com suggests Phillips’ injuries could have been much worse than they were had it not been for several truck drivers immediately on the scene, who put out the blazing fire in Phillips’ cruiser before fire and rescue vehicles arrived to get him from the car.
Former X-ray technician Diane Stambaugh saw the accident from the parking lot of the Cross Keys diner and told York Dispatch reporter Elizabeth Evans the story: “I was out front and the [fleeing] car came traveling east on Route 30 at an extreme rate of speed. That’s what caught my eye,” she told the reporter. “I didn’t think he was being pursued at first. But then out of the corner of my eye, I caught the [emergency] lights of the cruiser. … I saw the police cruiser hit the back end of the truck.”
Stambaugh then ran inside to call 911, and when she returned to the scene “other nearby tractor-trailer drivers had already grabbed fire extinguishers to attack the blaze,” Evans reported.
Here’s hoping Phillips makes a full recovery; and hats off to all the on-highway first responders out there. Which reminds me: Goodyear Highway Hero finalists were announced recently. For a full rundown of their own rescues, see our story here.