Sunday, September 14, 2003

Police save cuffed man from fire

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - A man handcuffed to the steering wheel of his burning car was rescued by two police officers as flames threatened to ignite the gas tank.

The fire had been set Thursday in the back of the Volkswagen Golf hatchback, fire Capt. Steve Saltsman said.

It wasn't immediately clear how Craig Stanton, 19, a security guard, wound up bound to the steering wheel with his own handcuffs. Police were unable to interview him Friday because of his injuries.

Stanton, of suburban Grove City, was hospitalized in serious condition with first- and second-degree burns and smoke inhalation. The officers were treated for smoke inhalation and released.

Police were investigating whether Stanton handcuffed himself or was forced into the situation.

"It's being looked at both ways," said Officer Keith O'Connor, one of the rescuers.

When O'Connor first spotted the burning car alongside an interstate in a residential neighborhood, it appeared empty. Then he saw something moving through the smoke and flames. He radioed for help, opened the driver's door and told the man to get out.

"I can't come out," Stanton said. "I'm handcuffed."

O'Connor, 25, used a universal handcuff key to free Stanton and pulled him to safety as Officer Chuck Radich, 27, turned a fire extinguisher on the blaze.

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