By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota State Patrol says a woman is alive because of the quick actions of three good Samaritans.

The trio stopped to help pull a woman out of a burning SUV after it veered off the road and hit a tree. The accident happened Sunday on Interstate 35W near Sandstone in Pine County.

One of the good Samaritans, Sean Kehren, says he was able to help because he was in the right place at the right time. He says he was driving south on the interstate when he noticed an SUV, two vehicles in front of him, drifting off the blacktop, heading towards a ditch.

“They ended up going down at about 65 miles per hour, swerving back and forth, until eventually [the driver] lost control and hit a tree head on,” Kehren said. “I slammed on the brakes, and I ended up running out of the car. The person in front of me did the same thing when they stopped.”

He says he ran to the door and saw the 67-year-old driver was conscious.

“I started feeling the warmth on my legs, and I looked down and there were flames coming out of the bottom of the car,” Kehren said. “So I said, or I more or less screamed, ‘Ma’am, we got to get you out of this car right now.’ I ended up trying to pick her up, brought her out of the car, but she slipped out of my arms and fell back into the flames. At that point, adrenaline kind of kicked in. I grabbed her by her shirt and kind of began tossing her out.”

Kehren says he and two others got the woman on the grass next to the interstate. Her car was completely engulfed in flames a few seconds later. The fire was so intense it melted the SUV’s tires and rims.

Before the driver was flown to Minneapolis for care, Kehren spoke with her.

“The one thing that she said to me is, ‘Thank you, you and God were there for me,'” Kehren said.

He added that he and the others who stopped to help are not heroes.

“Aside from Minnesota nice, human beings are empathetic,” he said. “Human beings do feel love towards one another, and I think that’s something that we saw here.”

The driver is in serious condition at North Memorial Medical Center.

Kehren, as well as state troopers who assisted at the scene, believe she made it out alive because of the quick actions of the good Samaritans who stopped to help.

Kehren says there was no way he could have pulled the lady to safety without the help of Elissa and Josh Schnell.

Reg Chapman