MedStar paramedics rescue two from burning car after wreck on Interstate 20

Despite a valiant effort to save their lives, a 19-year-old pregnant woman and her unborn baby died after a four-vehicle crash on Interstate 20 late Wednesday.

Jade Gilliam, of Fort Worth, was pronounced dead about 10:25 p.m. Thursday at John Peter Smith Hospital, according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Gilliam was pregnant and lost her unborn child, police reported. The cause and manner of Gilliam’s death were not listed.

Baby girl Gilliam was pronounced dead at 11:35 p.m. Wednesday at John Peter Smith Hospital, the Tarrant County medical examiner’s website showed. A ruling on the infant’s death is pending an autopsy.

Two MedStar paramedics, Miguel Brito and Ryan Bader, were traveling to a staging area in south Fort Worth when they saw a small sedan engulfed in flames after colliding with a pickup truck at the interchange between Interstate 20 and Interstate 35, according to Matt Zavadsky, MedStar spokesman.

Immediately, they radioed dispatch to tell them what was happening and ask them to send help, because no one had called 911 yet to their knowledge, Brito said.

“The car was already catching on fire, smoking, when we got there,” Bader said. “We were going to an area to stage — wait for calls, when we happened on the accident.”

One of the people inside the burning car was Jade Gilliam, according to authorities.

Bader grabbed a fire extinguisher out of the ambulance to reduce the flames enough so they could begin freeing two unconscious victims from the car. Essentially, the stopped traffic shut the freeway down, Bader said.

While Bader was trying to extinguish the flames, a passing motorist helped the other driver out of his truck, which was leaking gasoline, Bader said. During the collision the truck had intruded into the sedan’s passenger compartment, Bader said.

As the flames approached, a passing motorist, the paramedics said they are not sure who, dragged the first patient to safety next to the ambulance.

Then Brito said he discovered he could not open the passenger side door of the sedan, where the legs of the victim were trapped beneath the dashboard.

“Both of the patients were critical and unconscious,” Bader said. “While we’ve got a car on fire and a truck that’s pouring out gas.”

Brito said that earlier he had ignited two flares and put them on the pavement so they would not be struck by an inattentive driver.

“We were afraid we would be watching while a patient burned alive,” Brito said.

Another passing driver helped lift the patient’s legs while Brito dragged the victim out of the driver’s side door, Brito said.

Once they were out of harm’s way, the paramedics treated both victims while they waited for additional resources to arrive, Brito said.

Both of the patients who were freed from the car were taken to John Peter Smith Hospital and a third patient with minor injuries, the truck driver, was taken to an area trauma center, according to authorities.

If not for the efforts of the paramedics, the victims would have likely burned alive in the car, Zavadsky said.

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Mitch Mitchell is an award-winning reporter covering courts and crime for the Star-Telegram. Additionally, Mitch’s past coverage on municipal government, healthcare and social services beats allow him to bring experience and context to the stories he writes.