Published October 10 2012
DASH-CAM VIDEO: Clay deputy describes rescues in fiery north Moorhead crash that critically injured coupleMOORHEAD – A husband and wife from Hendrum were in critical condition after a fiery two-vehicle crash north of Moorhead late Tuesday, the Minnesota State Patrol reported.
Nolan Underlee, 83, and his wife, Doris Underlee, 79, were taken to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo in critical condition, the patrol stated in a news release.
The driver of the other vehicle, Brianna Pallotta, 25, of Minot, N.D., also was taken to the hospital for injuries not believed to be life-threatening.
A hospital spokeswoman said the three did not want to release any information about their conditions.
The two passenger cars collided around 9:30 p.m. about three miles north of Moorhead. The patrol said Pallotta was southbound on Highway 75 when she attempted to pass another vehicle and struck the Underlee vehicle head-on.
The patrol’s initial news release indicated that alcohol wasn’t a factor in the crash, but patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow said at a press conference Wednesday morning that alcohol may have been a factor and that a blood sample was taken from Pallotta to be tested at the state crime lab. Pallotta was not arrested, he said.
Clay County Deputy Mark Empting said two residents who live near the crash scene were trying to help Pallotta out of the 2000 Dodge Stratus when he arrived at the crash scene.
Empting said he grabbed a pry bar from his patrol car, and one of the residents used it to try to free Pallotta as Empting and the second resident tried to pull her from the car.
The engine compartment was engulfed in flames, and the fire was starting to intrude into the passenger compartment near them, Empting said.
“It was starting to get a little warm to us,” he said, adding that the wind fortunately was blowing from the right direction to push the smoke and flames away from them.
Pallotta was stuck between the collapsed dash and the seat, Empting said.
“There wasn’t a lot of talking that was going on,” he said. “She was moaning quite a bit. She appeared to be in a tremendous amount of pain from the injuries.”
Less than a minute after they pulled her to safety, the entire car was engulfed in flames, he said. Another resident had helped the Underlees out of their 2006 Cadillac
Empting, who serves on the Dilworth Fire Department, said natural instinct kicked in for him, and apparently for the residents, to save Pallotta from the burning car.
“I’m very happy that there were some good citizens out there that were willing to jump into action when the call came out for ’em,” he said. “They were a tremendous help, and sometimes we can’t do this job without their help.”