Deputy rescues woman from car fire

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Stacy Vogel
November 1, 2008
— A Janesville woman is learning to walk all over again, but things could have been a lot worse for her if a Rock County sheriff's deputy hadn't found her when he did.

The sheriff's office is praising rookie Deputy Caleb Beutin, Janesville, for putting out a car fire while the driver was pinned inside Sunday night.

"We're very proud of him," Lt. Gary Groelle said.

The woman, Heather J. Oleston, 38, of 2832 N. West River Drive, Janesville, is in good condition at Mercy Hospital after the accident in Milton's North Goodrich Park.

Beutin was on duty and passing through Milton near Madison Avenue and Parkview Drive just before 8 p.m. when three men flagged him down, he said. He saw smoke coming from a car that had crashed into a tree. Oleston was unconscious and pinned inside.

As Beutin approached the car, it burst into flames.

"As soon as I saw the fire, I immediately went to my squad and I got the fire extinguisher, and I went up there to put it out, hoping it would (go out)," he said.

It did, and Beutin waited with Oleston until Milton firefighters and EMTs arrived. Authorities used hydraulic jaws to extricate Oleston from the wreck, she said.

"That's when I woke up," she said from her hospital room.

Oleston started physical therapy Friday, she said. She has a broken knee, hand, foot and shoulder.

Milton police officials took over the case when they arrived. Oleston was arrested on charges of third-offense drunken and driving with a revoked license, Milton Police Chief Jerry Schuetz said.

Oleston doesn't believe alcohol was a factor in the crash. She had two drinks that night and started having chest pains as she drove, she said. She believes she was having a panic attack, she said.

Regardless of what caused the accident, the rescue was a rare thing for the sheriff's office, Groelle said. He recalled a similar situation a couple of months ago when motorists pulled a driver out of a vehicle that was on fire in Evansville.

"It has happened, but it's certainly few and far between," he said. "It's pretty special when certainly one of our own deputies can perform that way."

Beutin is in his first year as a sheriff's deputy, though he previously served as a correctional officer at the Rock County Jail.

"It certainly bodes well for him in our department that he was able to do this," Groelle said.

Beutin said he was in the right place at the right time.

"I don't know how long it would have been for other people to get up there," he said. "It was pretty fortunate that I was driving through."

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