Hero Waitress Rescues Injured Driver From Burning Car

A woman in Georgia is being hailed as a local hero after she saved an injured woman who was trapped inside a burning vehicle.

Keelyn Harper had spontaneously decided to take an alternate route home one night earlier this month. As she drove, the Mansfield resident saw a fire on the side of the road and felt the need to stop as other drivers simply passed by.

"That's when I was kind of like, 'It's just me. I have to do something,'" Harper, a 22-year-old waitress at local restaurant Rooster's Drive Inn, told The Covington News.

Thinking about her one-year-old daughter, Harper said a fight-or-flight reaction "took over."

"From far away it looked like someone had thrown something out in the bushes that caught on fire," she told Fox 13. "I didn't know it was a car until I stopped." After realizing it was a car fire, she called 911 alongside another motorist—one who reportedly drove away soon after, according to The Covington News.

Harper, however, stuck it out. She walked to the car, pulled back the airbag from the open driver-side window, and saw a bleeding woman, identified as local resident Ashley Strawn, inside the vehicle.

"The whole car was like it had run off the side of a cliff," said Harper. "It was completely embedded into the woods." Unable to open the driver's door, she ran to the other side of the car and managed to open the passenger-side door, despite it being severely damaged.

Strawn's leg was caught near the gas pedal, giving Harper no choice but to pull the victim out of the vehicle. "I told her it was going to hurt and I'm sorry," Harper told the news outlet. "But I grabbed her and I pulled her out."

In a conversation with Fox 13, Harper added, "It was just the instinct, you know, maybe a motherly instinct or maybe just...the human instinct to help." According to Harper, the woman was seriously injured: "Her bone was completely showing" in one area of her leg, and "she was bleeding really, really bad on her head."

Meanwhile, a crowd had formed at the scene, though no one else offered assistance. Too weak to carry the barely-conscious Strawn back to the road, the pair sat in the embankment waiting for help and hoping the car wouldn't explode.

"We just sat there and I just prayed and prayed that it would not blow up on us," said Harper. "I don't think she was really comprehending the situation, which is understandable. I held her and rubbed her hair and told her it was going to be OK."

Soon, a Newton County sheriff's deputy arrived, alongside other first responders. They put out the fire and took Strawn to receive medical attention.

Strawn's boyfriend, Troy Anderson, later told The Covington News that she was a mere "35 seconds" away from their home when the incident occurred. Strawn reportedly swerved on the road in order to avoid hitting a deer—a move that inadvertently sent her off the road. She is now in an Atlanta hospital recovering from a broken back and neck, in addition to a punctured lung.

As for Harper, the victim's family and friends have expressed gratitude for her intervention at the site of the accident. "I think that that girl was amazing," Anderson said.

Harper's boss at Rooster's Drive Inn, Kenny Anderson, also weighed in, calling the waitress "a true hero."

"She would have surely burned to death if it had not been for Keelyn," he said.

Car on Fire
A burning car being sprayed by a firefighter in Toulouse, France, 2018. REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty Images