More MS news articles for July 1999

Heroic rescue is worth celebrating

Birthdays are happy as man saves stranger from fiery car along I-77

Beacon Journal staff writer

Two strangers whose lives crossed in a dramatic way over the weekend both celebrated birthdays yesterday and thanked each other for making the occasion happier.

Patricia Wright of Cleveland almost didn't make it to her 55th birthday.

"I would have been a gone person," she said yesterday, recalling how she was trapped in a car fire Saturday night until Mark Thorne rushed to her rescue.

Wright, who uses a wheelchair, recalled being unable to help herself as she heard the popping sounds of windows breaking in her daughter's car from the heat and fire.

"I got smoke in my lungs, but I'm so glad to be alive and breathing," she said.

It was about 8:30 p.m. when Thorne and his wife, Rhonda, were getting off Interstate 77 at the White Pond exit to return to their Highland Square home.

They saw a smoking 1987 Chevrolet Impala at the side of the road. They also saw a woman -- Wright's daughter, Cerilla Wright, 33 -- standing with a wheelchair and trying to cope with her four children, ages 22 months to 7 years, who escaped the car fire.

Then they discovered there was another woman in the car.

"The smoke was coming from under the hood and inside and in a few seconds the flames were coming out," Thorne said. "They were coming from the dashboard, and she was immobilized."

Patricia Wright, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and also injured her back working as a nursing assistant, was in the car screaming. "I couldn't get out," Wright said yesterday.

But Thorne's wife and other witnesses were concerned for his safety as well. They were yelling at him to be careful because the burning car might explode.

"He had to help me," Wright said of Thorne.

He allowed her to grab him around the waist, so she could maneuver out the car door.

Thorne -- and an unidentified woman who also stopped to help -- eased Wright to the ground so she could roll down an embankment away from the car.

Witnesses said the car became engulfed in flames shortly after Wright was rescued. Firefighters arrived after the rescue.

The Wrights were headed to Alliance for a July 4 weekend celebration with relatives when the fire began. They believe a short circuit in wiring caused the blaze.

The vehicle was destroyed.

The Thornes left the scene, but not before Thorne learned a little something about the woman he helped save.

Wright, who was treated for smoke inhalation at Akron General Medical Center but eventually made it to Alliance for the July 4 celebration, was giving officials her birth date at the scene. That's when Thorne learned that he and she were both born on July 6.

This was a birthday Thorne wasn't looking forward to.

He was turning 39 -- a rite of passage that his wife said was causing him to have a "pity party."

He came to Akron 15 years ago from his native England and runs his own company, Call-Center Solutions, a computerized dialing-equipment firm. His Saturday night encounter changed his outlook.

"He told me this was his present -- feeling good about saving someone's life," Rhonda Thorne said yesterday.