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Trooper, 3 others save man in I-195 crash

Michael Canty, 23, of Mattapoisett is facing charges in this accident on Interstate 195 in Swansea, State Police said.

Michael Canty, 23, of Mattapoisett is facing charges in this accident on Interstate 195 in Swansea, State Police said. (Massachusetts State Police)

July 22, 2010

SWANSEA – Three good Samaritans who helped a state trooper rescue a man from a burning vehicle on Interstate 195 in Swansea yesterday morning said the victim was pulled from the Jeep moments before it was engulfed in flames.

“It went up like a barn fire,’’ said Robert Flanagan, 61, of Denver.

His brother, George, 63, and Maureen Estes, 56, both of Swansea, had picked up Robert at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I., and were traveling east on Interstate 195 at about 1 a.m. when they saw a Jeep cross three lanes of traffic in front of them and crash into a tree.

George Flanagan pulled his 2002 Acura over, and the three got out, they said yesterday afternoon at a press conference at the State Police barracks in Dartmouth.

George grabbed a fire extinguisher from his trunk while Robert called 911, they said.

“George is always prepared,’’ said Estes.

Robert said he and George tried to put out the fire, which started in the front of the smoke-filled, overturned Jeep, along with State Trooper Allyson Powell, who arrived within minutes of the call with another fire extinguisher.

She broke the rear window of the Jeep, Robert said.

Robert said the fire was contained for a moment, and he entered the Jeep through the rear window while George and Powell went in through the front passenger side.

The trio worked together to free the driver, he said.

George said after the press conference that the trio moved the driver, identified by State Police as Michael Canty, 23, of Mattapoisett, about 40 feet from the vehicle before it was engulfed in flames.

“If he had been in there another minute, two tops, he wouldn’t have gotten out,’’ George said.

Estes added during the press conference that Canty was in pain after he was freed.

Canty was taken to Rhode Island Hospital, where he was in serious condition last night, the hospital said.

State Police would not detail his injuries.

He is facing charges of operating under the influence, operating to endanger, and speeding, State Police said. Information on his arraignment was not immediately available yesterday.

State Police said in a statement that Powell cut the seat belt Canty had been wearing before he was freed from the Jeep.

“The Department of State Police commends the heroic work of Trooper Powell, as well as the brave actions of Robert Flanagan, George Flanagan, and Maureen Estes, whose help was invaluable,’’ the statement said. “Their actions most likely saved the life of Michael Canty.’’

Powell was treated for minor injuries and released yesterday at Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River, police said.

Estes said during the press conference that she feared for everyone’s safety during the rescue.

“But there was a person in the car, so you can’t walk away,’’ she said.

When asked by a reporter whether they considered themselves heroes, the civilian rescuers said no.