ARLINGTON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Off-duty police officers helped four people get away from a burning van, then helped track down the driver they believe caused the wreck.
Four teenagers were injured in the fiery crash that shut down the westbound lanes of I-30, west of Loop 12 early Friday morning.
Arlington Police Sergeant Michael Chitty was driving in to work, and said he had noticed a 2004 Lincoln Aviator driving erratically on the highway.
While he was watching it, he said the driver hit the entrance to the HOV lanes, and then a work van hit the SUV, flipped over and caught fire.
Chitty said he stopped his personal car, got out and told the SUV driver to stay where he was, and at the same time could hear the occupants of the van breaking windows to get out.
“At this point the fire began to grow more intensely,” he said. “And so I was just more focused on getting them out of the van and making sure everybody that was in the van was out of the van because of the fire that was occurring.”
The four victims, all between 17 and 19 according to Grand Prairie Police, got out on their own, but Chitty had to pull one farther away from the van as the fire grew.
An Irving police officer, also off-duty and on his way home, stopped and helped with Spanish translation until paramedics arrived.
Police said late Friday that three of the teens had already been treated and released from a local hospital.
Chitty said as he helped the victims, he saw the SUV driver starting to walk away from the scene and over the radio called in a description to dispatchers.
About 90 minutes later Grand Prairie police received a 911 call from the Trinity River Authority that a suspicious person was near their water treatment facility on the north side of I-30.
Officer Jason Sloan said the man, identified as 23-year-old Jesus Gutierrez, was shirtless, wet and somewhat incoherent.
“He was trying to blend in,” Sloan said. “He actually had acquired a reflective work style vest, but still shirtless, and was trying to make his way down the road.”
Sloan said Gutierrez failed a field sobriety test, and they found marijuana in his pockets, that appeared to match other bags they found in the care they believe he was driving.
He was being held in Grand Prairie Friday on $135,000 bond. Charges included failure to stop and render aid, hit and run, public intoxication and possession of drug paraphernalia.