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Utah Man Meets Rescuer After Fiery Crash In Southern Utah

SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah — A Utah man who was trapped in his vehicle after being rear-ended and thrown into a ditch off Interstate 15 met one of his rescuers Friday.

“The first time I saw firefighter D’Ambrosio, he was just a silhouette through thick smoke.” Jake Petersen said. “He was my hope. When I saw his blurred silhouette I thought I may have a chance of surviving.”

Petersen, who lives in Saratoga Springs, was traveling to St. George for business on Monday.

Law enforcement officials said a Volkswagen Passat was traveling at high speeds. The driver of that vehicle rear-ended Petersen while he and other cars were stopped, in traffic, near milepost 17 on I-15.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid Petersen was driving was thrown into a ditch and the batteries began to spark in the back of the electric car.

“A number of good samaritans had come to help me, but I was pinned inside. I was in immovable pain,” Petersen said. “People were trying to pull on the doors, but they wouldn’t budge. And then the batteries exploded. Battery acid and smoke hit my face and I couldn’t see.”

Salt Lake City Police Assistant Chief Tim Doubt was off duty and saw the crash. He ran to help and Petersen said Doubt played a critical part in saving his life.

“Asst. Chief Doubt was pulling the jammed door open as far as he could. It was only about 1/2 inch — but enough for me to get the fresh air I needed to survive. I had to teach myself how to breathe again in that moment,” Petersen said. “I really thought I was going to die. People were pounding on the windows with rocks, but they wouldn’t break.”

Meanwhile at Station 64 in Washington City — EMT Ryan D’Ambrosio was 12 hours into his second shift as a full-time firefighter.

“We got the call and made it to the scene in four minutes,” D’Ambrosio said.

Earlier that day D’Ambrosio put the extracting equipment, the jaws of life, in the ambulance. The rookie firefighter used that equipment and four minutes later, he and his partner Bill Lytle were carrying Petersen away from the car.

“When I popped the door, the smoke was thick, heavy and white. It didn’t taste good,” D’Ambrosio said. “The car became fully involved as we pulled him out and spread to the passenger compartment within seconds.”

Petersen’s wife Ashley said the couple feels grateful and has a new perspective.

“It’s a reminder to always appreciate the people you love. Spend as much time with them as you can,” Ashley Petersen said. “We just feel so lucky that Jake is here.”

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