WICKENBURG, Arizona (KPHO/KTVK) — Two good Samaritans who helped rescue a DPS Trooper from a burning car over the weekend are speaking out, recalling the terrifying moments following the deadly multi-car crash.
Two people were killed and three others were sent to the hospital after the crash on U.S. 93 near Wickenburg last Friday night.
On Wednesday, May 5, Carolee Ervien and Russel Christiansen were honored at a DPS ceremony for jumping in to help others involved in the crash. DPS Director Col. Heston Sibert thanked them for their bravery and courage, and said they “displayed the highest echelon of character.”
“The conduct that you displayed to save our Trooper’s life was valor,” said Sibert.
“All I can remember from that night is our car spinning,” said Ervien. On Friday night, Ervien was driving her Toyota Corolla on Highway 93 when she crashed into three other drivers.
Just moments before, DPS Trooper Casey Rhinehart had stopped to help the driver of a Suburban that was low on gas, and the driver of a Honda came speeding along, hitting both the trooper and the Suburban. The Suburban’s driver, identified as 43-year-old Catherine Winegar from Tucson, died. The driver of the Honda, identified as 23-year-old Alexis Wilson from Chandler, also died.
Ervien came up on the crash and couldn’t avoid it. “I just jumped out of the car. I noticed the carnage that was right in front of me. It wasn’t registering exactly what it was. I just knew I had to get out and help,” she said.
“That’s pretty amazing to jump out of your wrecked car and run toward danger to help people,” said Christensen, the other good Samaritan.
Christensen was driving by and stopped to help. “I could hear the screaming.”
Ervien said, “I ran to him and saw that it was the trooper and he was standing, trying to get out of his vehicle, but the bottom half of his door was stuck.”
Christensen said, “The terrain was so horrible; there was so much stuff on the ground. We were falling all over the place just trying to drag him and get him away.”
With his car engulfed in flames, Rhinehart lay on the ground, unable to move, but still guiding others on how to help.
“Officer Rhinehart was still running the scene from his back it was crazy. He had a notepad out and he was telling us what to do,” said Christensen.
“I think I am still in shock,” said Ervien.
“I was terrified, absolutely terrified,” said Christensen.
These strangers say from this experience comes an important message. “We need to come together and put our arms around all our first responders and officers and rangers and law enforcement who walk into danger on a daily basis,” said Christensen.
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