The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

May 12, 2014

Stranger helps rescue woman from burning SUV

Lightning hit car, frying locks

LAKE CRYSTAL – Anna Marie Smith and officer Chris Burban would like to again thank the stranger who came to their aid during Wednesday night's thunderstorm and helped free the Jackson woman who was trapped inside a burning vehicle.

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Smith and Burban don't know his name. There wasn't any time for introductions when the young man parked his vehicle across Highway 60 and rushed to Smith's stalled Chevrolet Trailblazer.

Burban, a Lake Crystal policeman, was struggling to extricate Smith when the young man offered help. The SUV's electrical system was fried and its doors would not open. They pulled her through the front-passenger window — its glass had been shattered with a special tool the officers carry.

Together, the men helped Smith walk to Burban's squad car. At that point, the Trailblazer was engulfed. The stranger told the officer he was leaving, went back to his vehicle and drove away.

“We have no idea who he is. We sure would like him to come forward so we can thank him again,” said Blue Earth County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Mike Mauer. The sheriff's department oversees Lake Crystal reports.

A Blue Earth County dispatcher had received Smith's first "911" call about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Smith was driving back from Montgomery when she heard reports of an approaching storm.

"I heard a boom and I saw a flash of light. I thought I had a flat tire," she said Monday.

Her vehicle had been struck by lightning and soon smoke streamed out from under its hood where the SUV stopped about 2.5 miles east of Lake Crystal. The SUV's electrical system no longer functioned and the door locks jammed.

Local law enforcement had its hands full Wednesday night — with thunderstorm warnings and a shooting near Hiniker Pond in Mankato — when Burban responded to the report about a woman trapped in a vehicle. As he neared Smith's SUV, flames were shooting out of its engine.

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