News Article http://www.pennlive.com/expresstimes/pdf/monday_nj.pdf Lebanon Twp. soldier hero, saves woman in fiery wreck I-78 crash injures two, shuts lanes Monday, September 08, 2003 By RUSS FLANAGAN The Express-Times BETHELHEM TWP. -- A National Guardsman risked his own life Sunday and pulled a 22-year-old New York woman from her burning car following a two-car wreck along Interstate 78. The crash closed the westbound lanes for more than two hours Sunday afternoon leaving hundreds of stranded motorists to mill around the highway. The crash also snarled eastbound traffic for more than a mile as motorists slowed to ogle the twisted and charred remains of the vehicles. Both drivers suffered serious injuries, but the crash may have proven fatal if not for the heroics of Bethlehem-based National Guardsman Spc. Eric Petrevich of Lebanon Township. State police said Kimberly Quercia, 22, of Farmingdale, N.Y., was traveling east about 3:48 p.m. when she inexplicably crossed the center median, traveled down an embankment and hit head-on a 1997 Hyundai driven by Laura Selendario, 31, of Pocono Lake, Pa. Quercia's 2002 Toyota then burst into flames. Quercia was flown by helicopter to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Salisbury Township where she was listed in critical condition with multiple burns and a back injury. Selendario was flown by helicopter to St. Luke's Hospital in Fountain Hill, which does not give out patient information. Injuries to both drivers could have been worse if not for the quick thinking of Petrevich, who pulled Quercia from her burning car and held off flames in Selendario's car until firefighters arrived. Petrevich, of the 744th Military Police in Bethlehem, was driving eastbound when he saw flames shooting from Quercia's Toyota. He then pulled his Mercedes onto the median, grabbed a fire extinguisher and rushed to the burning car which was fully engulfed in flames. Petrevich said Quercia was screaming for help as he struggled through blinding smoke, flames and intense heat to pull her from the vehicle. After getting Quercia out, Petrevich rushed over to Selendario's car, opened the hood and squirted what was left in his fire extinguisher to keep the car from catching fire, he said. Other motorists also pitched in, donating their fire extinguishers and carrying Quercia away from her burning vehicle. After Petrevich was done helping the crash victims, he assisted state police with keeping eastbound traffic moving smoothly. Petrevich said he never thought twice about rushing over to the vehicle and credited his military and police training for teaching him how to handle the situation. "They don't let you think about your safety," he said. Petrevich said he worked as a police officer for three years in Hunterdon County but declined to name the department. Major John Zuluaga, another National Guardsman who was traveling westbound, said he will recommend the military recognize Petrevich for his heroics. Quercia "was unlucky, but she could have been more unlucky if she didn't have someone like (Petrevich) around," Zuluaga said. Petrevich, who was dressed in military fatigues and a black beret, suffered a minor burn on his nose and forehead, but was otherwise uninjured. "My face is still burning," he said about an hour after the crash. "That heat was intense." While police investigated the crash, hundreds of stranded motorists either strolled about the highway or sat in their cars. Some walked around and talked on their cell phones, while one man sat in his truck and pored over an instruction booklet for an electric drill he just purchased. Dave and Lori Fine of Staten Island, N.Y., were on their way to Lehigh University to have dinner with their niece, Rachel Cohen, who is a freshman at the school. Roberta Arnesen, who lives near Lancaster, Pa., was returning home with her husband, Richard, from the United Nations in New York after visiting with her stepdaughter who works at U.N. headquarters. Arnesen said she and her husband usually take Interstate 95 home, but her husband thought I-78 would be more scenic. "I'm going to tell him he's wrong," she said. "I'm never doing this again." Eleven people have died in 2003 along the stretch of I-78 between Somerset County and the Pennsylvania border. Most of the fatal crashes involved cars crossing from one side of the busy interstate to the other. Following a fatal crash in early August, the New Jersey Department of Transportation said it plans to build median barriers at two trouble spots on I-78 to trim the number of fatalities. The state plans to install cable barriers which contain metal cords that are better able to absorb shock, slow down cars and prevent fatal crossover wrecks. The barriers will be installed between markers 4.4 to 7.41 in Greenwich Township and another section from 19.2 to 20.8 in Clinton Township.