Whidbey sailor rescues man from Jeep fire

Whidbey sailor Nickolas King-ston pulled a man from a burning Jeep. - photo submitted
Whidbey sailor Nickolas King-ston pulled a man from a burning Jeep.
— image credit: photo submitted

A sailor from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station became a hero Saturday when he helped pull people from a burning vehicle near Salem, Ore.

Nickolas Kingston was returning from a visit with family in his hometown of Forest Grove when he spotted the burning Jeep and pulled over.

Just after pulling over into a gravel turnout, Kingston said he heard a cry for help from off-duty Washington County Deputy Corporal Cheryl Crecelius.

Crecelius had removed one unconscious person from the car and a second person had escaped on his own. Both were laying in a nearby driveway when Kingston arrived.

A third victim was unconscious and his legs were pinned under the steering wheel, Kingston said during an interview Thursday. Both front doors would not open as a result of the impact.

Kingston said he climbed into the back of the Jeep, grabbed the man by the waist and gave him a “good tug” to free him. Kingston said he then pulled the man out through the back seat and dragged him to the area where the others were lying.

Kingston said it was hot inside the vehicle, which was filled with “toxic smoke” from  burning plastics and upholstery.

“I hadn’t really thought about anything other than getting him out,” Kingston said. “If we didn’t get him out, he was going to die.”

Prior to joining the Navy, Kingston said he volunteered for Oregon fire departments for nine months.

The three men in the accident, Mark Vanvleck, Jason Eaton and Christian Bandmann, are expected to recover from the accident, according to KATU news reports.

Vanvleck, the driver of the Jeep, was cited on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and assault.

Kingston said he hopes the accident was a “wake up call” for Vanvleck.

Vanvleck reached out to Kingston on Facebook and thanked him for saving his life.

“I was happy to hear he was going to be OK,” Kingston said.

Kingston is stationed NAS Whidbey and provides avionics support for the EP-3 aircraft as part of VQ-1.


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