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Motorist, Olmsted's employee help stunned driver out of burning car
POULSBO — James Denall of Poulsbo is a crash victim and a hero.
He was driving his white F-150 on Highway 305 at about 1:45 p.m. March 25. He was just passing Olmsted’s Nursery when he saw that cars at the traffic signal at 305 and Hostmark Street weren’t moving even though the light was green.
According to Denall, he had slowed almost to a crawl when, in his rear view mirror, he saw a white compact car behind him not slowing down. He tried to swerve to his right in order to avoid being pushed into the car ahead of him, he said.
He didn’t make it.
The white compact rear-ended his pickup so violently that the compact’s hood was shoved completely under the rear of his pickup. Thanks to his quick thinking, his pickup only lightly damaged the rear bumper of the car ahead of him.
Getting out of his car, dazed, Denall saw that that there were two women in the compact car and that the vehicle was on fire. Gasoline dripped out of its engine compartment. The compact’s passenger had managed to get out of the car, but the driver of the compact appeared stunned and unable to move.
Denall, with help from Olmsted employee Steven Panosh, got the car door opened and the woman's seatbelt off, and helped the dazed driver to the curb.
According to bystander Jamie Offergeld, who arrived at that point, the two women and Denall were sitting on the curb, shaken. “The fire kept getting bigger and bigger,” she said, so she helped them move further away.
According to Veronica Olmsted, Panosh was dialing 911 when he saw the car catch fire and rushed to help Denall. “He tossed me the phone and said, ‘Talk to them,’” she recalled. Eyewitness estimates varied, but all agreed the first emergency vehicle arrived “within five to 10 minutes.”
The two women passengers of the white compact car declined to be interviewed.
James Denall gives Poulsbo police details about the crash at Highway 305 and Hostmark Street, March 25. Terryl Asla / Herald
A view of the crash scene from Olsted's Nursery, at Highway 305 and Hostmark Street. An Olmsted's employee helped get the driver of the white car out of her burning vehicle. Terryl Asla / Herald
Personal items lay on the ground at the scene of a fiery crash at Highway 305 and Hostmark Street, March 25. Terryl Asla / Herald