A Wallingford, Connecticut, mom sprang into action after watching a fiery crash play out in front of her on Route 68 in Durham, pulling the two drivers from their cars before one burst into flames.
Police said Louise Gasparini, 43, of Middletown, was driving eastbound on Route 68 near the intersection of Route 157 when she collided with a car turning left in front of her Wednesday afternoon.
Wallingford mother and business owner Christine Mansfield said she watched the whole thing unfold.
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"I was driving down the street and heard a crash and saw two cars going out of control," she explained. "When I stopped the car, there was smoke coming out, one was resting against a light pole and the other against each other."
Mansfield said she threw her car into park and instinctively ran to the scene.
"My heart was pounding. I could see smoke coming out from both cars, so immediately, I was frightened," she recalled. "I was surprised to see the women were not getting out of their cars quickly."
She said one driver "started half-stumbling out of her car" and the other one was motionless in shock, the engine still running.
"I asked one woman, 'Are you OK?' And she said she was in shock, crying and clearly out of her element," Mansfield said. "I sad, 'Can you walk?' and she said yes."
After helping the first driver to safety, Mansfield turned her attention to the other woman, who Mansfield said was dazed and screaming in pain.
"Oil was dripping and the oil was catching fire, dripping out of that car. Again, heart pounding, I started screaming, 'We have to move these people! We have to get them out! The cars are going to blow up!'" she said.
Heart pounding and adrenaline pumping, Mansfield said she pulled out the second driver and led her away from the sedan, which was beginning to ignite.
"I don't think she understood what was going on. I said, 'The cars are on fire; you have to move,'" Mansfield explained.
Gasparini's car, which was totaled, burst into flames.
"To smell fire that close, the acrid smell, I've never been so close to something like that," Mansfield said.
Although both drivers were hospitalized, without Mansfield's help, the outcome could have been much worse.
"I would like to say thank you to that woman," said Gasparini's husband, Marc. "There are a lot of people who figure it's not their problem, but I really appreciate what she did and if she's out there, thank you very much."
Gasparini was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital for treatment of neck, back and shoulder pain, police said. The other driver, Maryann Booss, 69, of Bethany, was also hospitalized for treatment of neck and back pain, according to police.
Gasparini was cited for driving too fast, and Booss was cited for failure to grant the right of way.