Three injured in fiery crash on University Parkway

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MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- What began as a 3-car accident turned into a fireball on University Parkway Friday morning when a car at the tail end of the crash exploded into flames, and two sheriff's deputies jumped into action to help save the victims.

"We initially got a 911 call for a 3-vehicle accident that progressed, stating that we had a vehicle on fire with an occupant entrapped," said Lt. Jacob Sauer with Manatee County EMS.

As luck would have it, Dan Durrance with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office was on his way to work. When he saw the crash, he immediately rushed to the car and found a woman pinned under the wrecked dashboard.


Deputy Chris Folds came over to help, and together they were able to free the victim from the inferno.

"We classified her as a trauma alert due to her burns and she was Bayflited to Tampa General. We also had a second trauma alert from a second vehicle that was transported to Blake Medical Center, and a third with minor injuries," said Lt. Sauer.

According to Florida Highway Patrol, a Saturn driven by 65-year-old Judd Hoffman of Sarasota with 57-year-old passenger Catherine Cuartas was headed eastbound on University when it approached traffic that was stopped.  Hoffman was unable to stop in time and smashed into a Silverado pickup truck driven by 44-year-old David Darling of Sarasota.  His truck was then pushed forward into another car.

Cuartas was reported to have suffered burns over 15% of her body, but all victims were conscious when they were transported from the scene.

The accident, which happened at the intersection with Whitfield Avenue, had eastbound traffic was backed up for miles until the scene was cleared.  All lanes have reopened.

But thanks to the quick work of 2 deputies and the Manatee County Fire Rescue, everyone got out alive.

Hoffman faces a charge of Careless Driving.