A good Samaritan died in a fiery crash after stopping in the fast lane of Interstate 80 Wednesday morning to help a motorist who ran out of gas.
California Highway Patrol Sgt. Troy Rivers said dispatchers received a call at about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday of a disabled vehicle in the fast lane of westbound I-80 just west of Norwood Avenue. Three people were outside the vehicle waving flashlights at passing motorists.
Before a CHP unit could arrive, there was a fatal sequence of events.
“A good Samaritan stopped, picked up one of the parties who said they had run out of gas and brought that person to the gas station,” Rivers said. “They filled up the gas can, returned to the scene and stopped in the fast lane of eastbound I-80.”
At that point the motorist with the gas can and the good Samaritan got out of the car.
“The person from the disabled vehicle said for the good Samaritan to just go, but he got out because he wanted to make sure the person got to his disabled vehicle,” Rivers said. “Once the good Samaritan saw him get to his vehicle, the good Samaritan got back into his car, and that is when the crash occurred.”
As the stalled motorists started putting gas into their car, they heard a loud crash.
“The good Samaritan essentially got inside the car, shut the door and was struck from behind,” said Rivers.
The driver who rear-ended the car, an off-duty police officer, may have been distracted by the activity of the stalled motorists on the westbound side, Rivers said.
The officer got out of his vehicle and tried to pull the good Samaritan from his car. However, the burning car made extrication impossible.
The officer suffered minor burns on his forearms. The good Samaritan died at the scene.
Officers interviewed the people whose vehicle ran out of gas.
“They were obviously shaken up, realizing that the condition of their vehicle caused the person to stop and render aid,” said Rivers. “We made sure they were as psychologically sound as could be before they left the scene – as well as the driver of the other vehicle.”
As to why the good Samaritan stopped in the fast lane of the freeway to let the stranded motorist out with the gas can, Rivers said it appears he was just trying to be nice. He did not want the stranded motorist with the gas can to run across several lanes and then hop the divider.
“I think he was genuinely concerned about the welfare of this person and thought, ‘I’m going to drop him off as close as possible to his vehicle,’ ” Rivers said.
The good Samaritan unfortunately also exited his car, giving more time for the approaching vehicle to rear-end his car.