MILLVILLE, Calif. - A Redding man was in the right place at the right time Friday night when he came across a suspected DUI rollover crash near Millville and rescued two people from a car before it burst into flames.
The fatal wreck happened just before 9:30 p.m. Friday on Highway 44 just east of Millville Plains Road.
25-year-old Robert Smith was heading eastbound on the highway at the time, on his way to Shingletown.
"All of a sudden I see people in the road trying to flag us down and we pull over to the side of the road, start walking around and we just here people say, "The car's out there. The car's out there.," said Smith.
Smith said he first saw a man, later identified as 32-year-old Kevin Rawlins, of Bella Vista, with moderate injuries.
"We sat him down, you know, just so he wouldn't hurt himself any further."
Smith, a former search and rescue swimmer in the Navy, then turned his attention to a woman who appeared to be in really bad shape.
"It's one of the worst things I've seen in my life that a person's going through, at that moment," Smith said. "I wasn't going to give up on her but I knew it wasn't going to happen. I knew that she wasn't going to pull through."
That unidentified Weaverville woman, 16 to 20 week pregnant, was later pronounced dead at the hospital. Her unborn child also did not survive.
"It's not because anyone gave up on her or she wasn't strong enough, It's simply because of how bad the accident was," Smith said.
All in the same moment, Smith noticed a man and a woman trapped in the vehicle, which had just begun to catch fire.
"All of a sudden the car started erupting in flames. In fact, in the engine compartment."
Using all of his strength, Smith said he pulled back the passenger side door and freed the female, 32-year-old Jennifer Jones, of Lewiston, and a dog.
Next, he ran around to the driver's side.
"The driver was just passed out, snoring in the steering well. And the fire started getting worse and the tires pop and I'm like, 'This car is going to go up in flames.'"
Smith wrestled with the driver's seat belt and dragged him about 50 feet from the vehicle with the help of another passerby before the a vehicle was consumed by flames.
The driver, 36-year-old Robert Frederick, of Burnt Ranch, is accused of driving under the influence. He is also on probation for a prior DUI conviction.
Smith said the horrific crash should serve as a learning opportunity.
"For someone to neglect, not only someone that is pregnant but everybody else in the car, and make a decision like that...it's only a learning experience," Smith said. "The only thing that can come from this is to learn from it. It's a sad thing to say."
The CHP says they will seek second degree murder charges against Frederick.