Police & Fire

Westfield Man Pulls Two from Burning Car in Route 80 Accident

Duncan Smythe of Westfield pulled the driver and a passenger from a vehicle that veered across Route 80, hit a car on the shoulder and burst into flames. Credits: Duncan Smythe
Smythe's friend, Rudy Palma, captured this image of the fiery crash that occurred on July 4. Credits: Rudy Palma

ROCKAWAY, NJ – When Duncan Smythe of Westfield left for a Fourth of July gathering at a friend’s home in Sussex County, he didn’t expect to pull two people from a fiery car after a crash on Route 80.

Smythe, 65, was driving west on Route 80 along with friend Rudy Palma when he saw a car veer across the road and strike a Toyota on the shoulder with what he described as “a lot of force.”

The driver of the vehicle on the shoulder, Michael O’Brien, 49, was outside of his car adjusting his bicycle when he was struck by Mary Potts, 72, and killed instantly, according to police. A rear passenger in his car, Mary Briggs, 69, was critically injured and taken to Morristown Medical Center, Trooper Lawrence Peele of the NJ State Police said.

Sign Up for E-News

“The two cars both left the ground, spun around, hit the guard rail and one car burst into flame immediately,” Smythe said. “I pulled over. The car I approached had smoke coming out from the hood, but fortunately the door was not locked.”

Smythe pulled Potts, who he described as disoriented, and her passenger out from the car. The passenger, who was at least 6-feet tall, was wedged under the dashboard, Smythe said.

“The car was fully engulfed in 90 seconds,” Smythe said. “It was a hell of a blaze.”

Smythe, who works a realtor, graduated from Westfield High School in 1970. He worked as a police officer in Bridgewater during the late 1970s and 1980’s and served as an EMT on the Westfield Rescue Squad for 25 years. That training kicked in as he approached the smoking car with focus and determination to act quickly, he said.

“All I was thinking was, ‘I have to get them out,’” he said. “I think because of experience I was just focused. People watch TV and think that cars explode, but they don’t. Gasoline doesn’t explode, it burns. People kept telling me that it was going to blow, but I knew it wasn’t going to.”

A few days later, Smythe said he’s reflecting on the adrenaline that kicked in when he saw the accident.

“Adrenaline is a wonderful thing,” Smythe said. “It didn’t occur to me that the man in the passenger seat outweighed me by at least 50 pounds and I picked him up like a feather. What they say about adrenaline is true.”

Despite his actions after the crash, Smythe prefers that well-wishers refrain from calling him a hero.

“Please don’t use the word hero,” he said. “I don’t like that. I was just lucky and happy that I was in the right place at the right time. I don’t really feel it was heroic. Guys losing their legs in Iraq are heroic.”

At this time, the crash remains under investigation, Peele said. He could not comment on Smythe’s actions at the scene.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Westfield

Elizabeth Cops Seek ‘Armed and Dangerous’ Man

November 21, 2017

ELIZABETH, NJ —  Elizabeth police are asking for the public’s assistance in locating an "armed and dangerous" man wanted on multiple arrest warrants. According to officials, all of the warrants are for violent crimes.

Police have identified the man as William Valentin, 42. Valentin is of Puerto Rican descent with a muscular build, hazel eyes and black hair.

Synopsis of Westfield Board of Education Meeting Nov. 14

November 16, 2017

COUNSELING DEPARTMENT REPORT

Maureen Mazzarese, Director of Counseling in the Westfield Public Schools, prepared a report summarizing the department’s missions, goals and practices in supporting our K-12 students and their families.  Here are some highlights which briefly summarize the comprehensive report:
 

At every grade level, counselors are working with students ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_24b0bab667753b5ceada_1d4v8952

Wed, November 22, 5:00 AM

Westfield Area YMCA, Westfield

Free Wellness Wednesday at Westfield Area YMCA

Wed, November 22, 11:00 AM

Kehler Stadium, Westfield

Parade and Pep Rally

Sports

Carousel_image_c046a1523a39620cf4b9_storypoint

Wed, November 22, 2:00 PM

NosVino, Westfield

Storypoint California Wines

Food & Drink

OUT RUN YOUR FORK Offers BOGO Black Friday Specials Now Till Cyber Monday

November 22, 2017

Out Run Your Fork, a Personal Training Studio located at 361 South Ave East, Westfield, NJ, is offering a BOGO sale on all gift cards. From now until Cyber Monday, Out Run Your Fork is accepting orders for gift cards ranging from $25.00 to $100.00 and on personal training sessions, group fitness and nutritional counseling.

While all orders are accepted online, this special BOGO Deal is ...

Westfield Police Blotter: Car Stolen from Street Corner & More

November 22, 2017

November 15, 2017 4:45 p.m.

Marcus Rowles, age 49, of Newark, NJ, was arrested on the strength of outstanding warrants out of Newark Municipal Court ($250), Bloomfield Municipal Court ($250) and Union Township Municipal Court ($155) pursuant to a motor vehicle investigation in the area of 421 Central Avenue. Subject was transported to Westfield Police Department where he was processed and ...

Garwood Family Center YMCA After School Students Enjoy Fall Leaves

The Garwood Family Center YMCA provides full-day and half-day early learning programs for 2½ year olds - preschoolers as well asbefore and after school experiences for Garwood students in grades K-5.  Activities include sports, recreation, arts & crafts, homework time and much more!  A healthy snack is provided and the Healthy U program is incorporated into the ...

No NJ Estate Tax!

Did you know that the New Jersey estate tax has been repealed?

The regulation was passed in the transportation bill in late 2016. Effective Jan. 1, 2018, the estate tax repeal goes into effect, so there will no longer be New Jersey estate tax. For deaths as of Jan. 1, 2017, the NJ estate tax exemption increased from $675,000 to $2 million. That means an individual ...

23 Winter Concerts in Westfield Public Schools; Special Senior Citizen Event Dec. 20

A total of 23 winter concerts will take place in the Westfield Public Schools this season. The first one begins with Edison Intermediate School’s band concert on Dec. 5 and will conclude with the Westfield High School Chorale of Love Songs on Feb. 10. The entire schedule is posted on the district’s website www.westfieldnjk12.org and appears ...

Black Cat Missing in Westfield

UPDATE: Found.

ORIGINAL POST: Black cat went missing on Grove Street near Central Avenue Sunday. He was not wearing a collar. 

If you see him please call 908-962-8677

Great Places to Take Holiday Photos in the Westfield Area

’Tis the season to cajole your family to wear matching outfits, bribe the kiddos with candy canes and chocolates, and somehow balance reindeer antler onto your pet’s head. What to do for your holiday photos this year? Why not take advantage of all of the great outdoor backdrops in our quaint towns and parks? Local businesses and townships also have some photo ops scheduled that will ...

Recovering from Addiction

November 16, 2017

You don’t recover from an addiction by just quitting.  You recover by creating a new life where it is easier to not use.  If you do not create a new life for yourself, then all the factors that led you to your addiction will eventually catch up with you again.  AA teaches that you must change people, places and things.

You don’t have to change everything in your ...

The First Holiday Season Without Your Person — Making a Plan, Checking it Twice

If you are facing your first holiday after an important person in your life has died, it’s not too early to come up with a plan. Watching others who are feeling thankful and are celebrating when we feel overwhelmed, lonely or sad can be very painful. Holidays force us to realize how much our lives have been changed by the loss of our loved one.   

The first step in coping ...

AtlantiCast: Episode 007

On this week’s AtlantiCast, you’ll see how Atlantic Health System is driving innovation and finding new ways to solve tomorrow’s health care challenges, find out how a near tragedy on the tennis courts was averted thanks to some world-class training and technology at Chilton Medical Center and meet the 70 cancer doctors you need to know about – plus much ...

5 Ways for Small Business Owners to Separate Business and Personal Finances

I suspect most business owners that provide for their families would argue that nearly all business matters are personal! Unfortunately, too many times I have seen clients, intentionally or not, commingle their personal objectives with their business. This can quickly lead to decision making that has calamitous results for both your personal and business planning.

Here are five issues I hear ...

Celebrating the Holidays After a Divorce – How Separated Couples Choose to Share Time With Their Children Can Make a Big Difference

With the holidays approaching, people are busy making travel arrangements and shopping lists, digging out old recipes and getting their homes ready for what is arguably one of the most family oriented times of the year. However for couples with children who are ending their marriage or relationship these times come with an added layer of concern as to how they will share time with their children ...

Family Health

Be Aware of Pancreatic Cancer’s Warning Signs

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and nationally renowned gastrointestinal (GI) cancer physician-scientist Angela Alistar, MD thinks it is critical that everyone learn how to recognize the warning signs of this aggressive cancer. Dr. Alistar is medical director of GI medical oncology at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center of Morristown Medical Center, Atlantic Health ...

Hub City Native, Longtime Boxer, Facing Off for Global Title in Atlantic City This Weekend

November 17, 2017

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ — New Brunswick native and legendary boxer Jorge “King” Diaz has certainly had his ups and downs over the years, and in some ways, he’s epitomized the rags to riches story.

Diaz was born in New Brunswick and throughout his youth, moved around to Puerto Rico, Franklin Township and North Brunswick, before finally settling down in Somerset some years ...