By Neal Simpson
The Patriot Ledger
ROCKLAND, Mass — Fire officials say a woman would have died in her burning car Monday morning if it hadn't been for the quick actions of a Chelsea fire captain and other bystanders.
Officials said the firefighter, Capt. Edward McGarry, was on his way to work sometime before 7 a.m. when he saw a car on fire in the Route 3 median in Rockland with a woman pinned inside. McGarry and several passers-by pulled the woman from the car just as flames and thick black smoke reached the passenger compartment, officials said.
McGarry said he grabbed his fire coat and boots from his car and jumped a fence to join several other bystanders outside the burning car.
While one of the bystanders sprayed the engine with a chemical fire extinguisher to buy them time, McGarry and the others worked to free the woman's legs, which were pinned between the dashboard and driver's seat, and eventually pulled her out feet first through the window as flames were burning through the floorboard of the car.
Firefighters from Rockland and Hingham extinguished the fire while the Norwell crew treated the woman, who has not been identified. She was taken to South Shore Hospital with serious injuries before being transferred to a hospital in Boston.
"She would not have made it if Capt. McGarry, and whoever may have assisted him, hadn't pulled her out of there," said Norwell Capt. Stephen Sweeney, who arrived at the scene moments after the rescue to find the vehicle engulfed in flames. "Someone was smiling over her shoulder."
Sweeney said the vehicle appeared to have been speeding when it went off the road and hit several trees in the median. He said the woman was pinned in the car and couldn't get out by herself.
McGarry, a Marshfield resident who has served with the Chelsea Fire Department since 2000, was treated at South Shore Hospital for smoke inhalation and cuts to his hands, fire officials said.
"Basically, this guy's a hero," said Rockland Fire Chief Scott Duffey. "I'm going to put that right out there."
Bob Cameron, a deputy chief in the Chelsea Fire Department, said McGarry is a soft-spoken former Marine who has served as a captain in the department since 2008. He said he served as a firefighter in Sandwich before moving to Chelsea in 2000.
McGarry said he couldn't have managed to free the woman without the other people who stopped to help.
"I don't know who they were, but they were wonderful," he said. "They stayed right with me and got her out of the car. There was no way I could get her out by myself."
McGarry received a Massachusetts Firefighter of the Year Award after he and another firefighter rescued a mother and child from a burning Chelsea apartment building in February 2002.
"He's a good jake," Cameron said.
Copyright 2012 The Patriot Ledger