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Two rescued from fiery Lake County pickup crash

Published: Monday, January 28, 2013 at 8:03 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 12:58 p.m.

A Lake County CHP officer on Sunday night saved the lives of two people when he pulled them out of a burning pickup that crashed after the suspected drunken driver swerved to avoid a car, the CHP said Monday.

The driver and two passengers remained hospitalized Monday afternoon.

Adam Garcia was the first officer to reach the crash, which was reported at about 8:30 p.m. on Highway 29 outside of Lower Lake, Sgt. Dave Stark said.

The driver had run off of the highway, sending the truck careening end-over-end through a field. It landed on its wheels in a creek bed.

Garcia found one passenger outside of the pickup but two people inside: Dow Walton, 58, and Regina Walton, 66, both of Lower Lake.

Flames from the engine were spreading into the cab through the broken windshield.

The driver's door was jammed, and Garcia reached in through the broken door window and tried to pull out the driver, Dow Walton. But one leg was pinned under the crushed dashboard and Garcia couldn't free the man, Stark reported.

Garcia reached over Walton for the woman. He pulled her over Walton, out through the broken window and away from the burning truck before returning to try again to rescue Walton.

After several tries, Garcia finally was able to free Walton's leg and pulled him to safety.

"Regina Walton suffered severe burns to her upper body but was saved from further injury due to the heroic actions of Officer Garcia," Stark said in a statement.

"Dow Walton sustained a possible fractured shoulder and wrist due to the collision . . . . (but) was also saved from further injuries due to the heroic actions of Officer Garcia," Stark said.

Garcia has been a CHP officer for 10 years. He was taken to a local hospital for a precautionary evaluation and was released, said the CHP.

Dow Walton was flown by helicopter to Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa, where Monday he was in stable condition in intensive care. He was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Regina Walton was flown to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento and on Monday was in critical condition.

Passenger Andy Hopper, 25, of Lower Lake was flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. He had an apparent skull fracture, facial cut and broken ribs, the CHP said. He was in serious condition Monday.

The crash occurred as Dow Walton was driving north on the rural highway near Hofacker Lane when he tried to pass another vehicle across double yellow lines.

Witnesses told the CHP that the pickup had to swerve back into its lane because another vehicle was approaching southbound.

As Walton swerved back, the 2005 Chevrolet Silverado pickup hit a curb, veered across the lanes, slid sideways off the road and flipped.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com.

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