An Arlington police sergeant who just happened to be passing by a fiery wreck on his way to work Friday stopped to rescue two out of four men from a burning van. The other two men were able to escape on their own.
The collision occurred shortly after 5 a.m. on westbound Interstate 30, west of the Loop 12 exit, according to Grand Prairie police.
Investigators concluded that a 2004 Lincoln Aviator was westbound on I-30 when it left its lane and collided with a barrier at the Texpress Lanes entrance, a news release from Grand Prairie police said.
A 2003 Chevrolet Express van then collided with the Lincoln, causing the van to overturn and catch fire, police said. The van only had two seats, so two unsecured passengers were trapped in the wreckage, according to the release.
Sgt. Michael Chitty, an Arlington Police Department sergeant on his way to work in the west division saw a motorist driving erratically and was about to notify authorities when he saw the Lincoln crash into a wall, according to Lt. Christopher Cook, Arlington police spokesman.
Sgt. Chitty then saw the van crash into the disabled Lincoln. He stopped at the crash scene and helped rescue the remaining passengers from the van, the release said.
Two of the occupants were able to get out of the van on their own, but the other two were trapped and had to be helped, Cook said. Chitty put the two van passengers into his car because the fire was getting close and drove them to safety, Cook said.
Chitty also saw the driver of the Lincoln and ordered him to sit down and wait for arriving authorities. The driver complied at first, but while Chitty was occupied with making sure the van occupants were safe, the man ran across the freeway into a wooded area, Cook said.
“Chitty was able to issue a ‘be on the lookout’ message informing police of the suspect’s direction of travel and a description,” Cook said.
The occupants of the van were taken by paramedics to a nearby hospital for treatment. Three had been released by 2:30 p.m. while the remaining passenger was still receiving treatment but is expected to survive, according to the release. The van’s occupants were co-workers between 17 and 19 years old from Garland who were on their way to a work site, police said.
Arlington sent several units into Grand Prairie to help with the incident, and an Irving officer who had finished his shift and was headed home also stopped to help, Cook said.
About 6:45 a.m. Grand Prairie officers found the driver of the Lincoln near the intersection of Singleton Boulevard and Sea Harbor Drive in Dallas and placed him under arrest, according to police.
The suspect driver was identified as Jesus Gutierrez, 23, of Grand Prairie. He is facing four counts of failure to stop and render aid, hit-and-run, public intoxication and possession of drug paraphernalia charges, police said.
Narcotics were found in his car, according to the release. Gutierrez is being held at the Grand Prairie Police Detention Center. Bond was set at $135,000.