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HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss. (AP) — Passing motorists who saw smoke billowing Thursday from a stand of pine trees along southern Mississippi's Interstate 10 rescued a woman and her disabled sister trapped inside a wrecked, burning sport utility vehicle.
Fifteen to 20 motorists, including a photographer for The Associated Press, came to the aid of the women Thursday afternoon in Hancock County.
Photographer Gerald Herbert said the rescuers pulled the disabled woman from the wreck first, but getting the driver out was difficult.
"No one had fire extinguishers," Herbert said. "We were all sure she was going to perish. The sounds of her screams and the sight of the fire inching closer to her, that was the most horrible
and helpless feeling I've ever felt in my life."
As flames spread in the SUV and the driver screamed in panic, those who'd stopped flagged down motorists in a desperate search for fire extinguishers, water — anything that could be used to douse the flames while others tried to find a way to extricate the driver.
Using extinguishers provided by passing truckers, the rescuers were able to control the fire as they worked to free her.
Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman Ben Seibert identified the driver as Giovanna Demonte, 36, of Picayune, Miss. He said she was airlifted in stable condition to Gulfport Memorial Hospital. "She had serious head trauma. Anytime that happens, injuries are considered life-threatening," he said.
Seibert said Demonte was traveling eastbound on I-10, just past the Louisiana-Mississippi line, about 11:30 a.m. when she went off the road, overcorrected, and crossed the median. The passenger side of her 2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer then crashed into a tree.