Nikki Prentice looked up and saw fire as she left a job interview Wednesday afternoon at the University Health Clinic on the corner of Patriot Avenue and University Boulevard. “As I was getting out, that’s when there were flames,” Ms. Prentice said.
Just before 4:30 p.m., a two-car accident left one driver dead catty-corner to the university’s clinic, police said. Ms. Prentice, a Tyler Junior College student, said she saw three people run up to the car to try to pull the driver out.
She said she heard volunteer rescuers screaming, “Somebody’s in the car.”
“As they got to the truck, it just blew up,” she said.
Tyler Police Sgt. Robert Phillips said a preliminary investigation showed the two cars were traveling north on University, toward Loop 323. The car traveling on the inside lane attempted to turn onto Patriot Avenue, lost control, started flipping and caught fire, Phillips said. The identity of the victim has not yet been released. Vic Thompson was on scene, and said his son-in-law, Tad, was one of the rescuers attempting to save the driver.
“He was here trying to help the guy,” Thompson said. “It blew up and caught on fire.”
Phillips said police officers and volunteers were “unsuccessful in pulling (the driver) out.” Tad was taken to East Texas Medical Center for burns from the explosion, Thompson said. Police said there were two witnesses who attempted the rescue and received minor burns.
Passengers in the other vehicle, a GMC Yukon, were not injured, Phillips said. Damage to the GMC was focused on the front left corner.
The windshield was cracked on the passenger side, and there was also some damage to the front right bumper of the car.
Accident investigators were on the scene, and traffic was blocked on University Boulevard near the University of Texas at Tyler to about a quarter-mile north near Gail Lane.
The speed limit on University at that intersection is 45 mph.
The University of Texas at Tyler Police department is assisting Tyler Police in the investigation. Tyler Fire Department was also on scene. “It’s a tragedy. I’m shook, I’m nervous,” Ms. Prentice said. “God bless this family, whoever they may be.”
Published March 10
Tyler Morning Telegraph