LIVINGSTON — A driver involved in a fiery crash on Interstate 12 near Livingston on Wednesday morning was pulled from his vehicle moments before it became fully engulfed in flames, State Police reported.
James Dutschke, 27, of Baton Rouge, was driving east in the right lane of I-12 around 9:30 a.m. when traffic ahead of him slowed abruptly near the exit at La. 63, Trooper Russell Graham said in a news release.
Dutschke failed to slow down in time and ran into the rear of a tractor hauling a box trailer loaded with 55-gallon oil drums, Graham said.
After the collision, Dutschke’s vehicle ran off the road to the right, struck a tree and immediately caught fire, the trooper said.
Dutschke’s injuries were not life-threatening, but he was trapped inside the vehicle, Graham said.
Deputies Tony Edwards and Damien Davidson, of the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, were on the scene within minutes, State Police reported.
With the help of other first responders, the deputies pulled Dutschke from the burning vehicle through the front windshield only moments before the fire spread to the passenger compartment, Graham said.
Acadian Ambulance took Dutschke to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge for treatment, the trooper said.
The driver of the other vehicle, Michael Gonzalez, 48, of Texas, was not injured in the crash, Graham said.
The box trailer sustained minor damage, and its contents were unharmed, he said.
“I’m just so proud of my guys,” Livingston Parish Sheriff-elect Jason Ard said. “God put them in the right place at the right time, and I’m very proud that they responded quickly and did the right thing. Their actions may have saved this man’s life.”
Col. Mike Edmonson, State Police superintendent, commended the deputies as well.
“As I have the occasion to speak to citizen groups across the state, we discuss incidents where ordinary individuals who work in public safety are given the opportunity to do extraordinary things,” Edmonson said.
“These deputies embraced that opportunity, faced danger head-on and ultimately saved this man’s life.”