Young heroes rescue driver

January 09, 2003 11:00 pm

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

Two teen-agers on their way to Colorado became heroes Thursday when they pulled a young Sonora woman away from her wrecked car moments before it burst into flames.

"She's one fortunate little girl," California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Peterson said.

Emily Werrett, 19, crashed her 1986 BMW on Highway 108 near the west entrance to Twain Harte about 9:45 a.m. She was heading south to Sonora when her car veered off the road, struck a boulder and rolled halfway down the brush-covered hillside between the highway and Hunts Road before landing sideways with its roof against a tree.

Werrett, who was thrown from the car, remains in fair condition today at University of California, Davis, Medical Center in Sacramento.

Two longtime friends raised in the Bay Area — Josh Inman, 18, and Nick Russell, 19 — saw the accident happen.

"It looks like she fell asleep," Inman said. "(The car) just went straight off."

Russell was returning to Boulder to resume classes at the University of Colorado, and Inman was going along for the ride and to go snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains. The two had stopped in Twain Harte to see Russell's brother before leaving.

Just moments on the road, they saw Werrett's car go off the road.

They pulled over, called 911 on Inman's cell phone, then raced down the steep, muddy embankment toward the crash site.

They saw Werrett lying in a clump of bushes just downhill from the car.

"We ran down there and heard screaming — we didn't know if it was the girl, or a person in the car," Inman recalled as workers prepared to pull the burned-out car off the hillside.

Inman and Russell said the car looked unstable leaning against the tree. Fearing it could fall on Werrett, they moved her away and out of its path.

The two were returning to see if anyone else was in the car when it went up in flames.

"The car was on its side, engulfed in flames," Russell said. "It was one big fireball."