A Howard County police officer crawled under the hood of a burning car and squeezed himself through a small opening to pull a teenage woman from a wreck on Route 97 in Carroll County early Friday morning, according to police.
The woman, Casey Marie Bellofatto, 18, of Sykesville, was transported to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in critical condition, according to a police statement.
Cpl. Craig Ream, an 11-year veteran of the police department, was on his way to work around 3 a.m. to serve a search warrant, when he happened upon the crash, said police. That's when he attempted to use a fire extinguisher to combat the blaze, but it had little effect, and so he decided to risk his own safety to attempt to save the woman.
"This took amazing courage," said Police Chief William McMahon. "I couldn't be more proud. We hear the word 'hero' used all the time, but Craig's actions this morning were truly heroic."
After pulling the woman from the burning car, Ream and Carroll County Sheriff's Deputy Corporal Gunnar Burdt carried her up a hill, away from the vehicle, said police.
Ream, who police reported was soaked with gasoline and covered in blood, was transported to Howard County General Hospital and treated for burns, cuts and scrapes. He was later released, said police.
Bellofatto's 2010 Toyota Corrolla was heading southbound on Route 97 when it crossed the double yellow center line and collided head on with a 2000 Honda Accord being driven northbound by a 63-year-old Westminster woman, according to Maryland State Police.
The Toyota then veered off the roadway, overturned and caught fire, at which point Ream came upon the wreck and pulled Bellofatto from the vehicle, according to police.
The Westminster woman, Christine Elizabeth Stramm, was flown to shock trauma in serious condition, said state police.
Maryland State police said it is unknown at this time if speed or alcohol were a factor in the collision.