Dog dies in Interstate car fire

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Thursday, February 10, 2011
— David Phillips had just left work in Janesville on Tuesday night and was traveling home to Stoughton on Interstate 90/39 when he noticed a slow vehicle in the right lane.

As he got closer, he saw flames shooting from the exhaust pipes. Phillips pulled alongside the full-size 2001 Lincoln and motioned for the driver to pull over.

Once both vehicles

were safely on the shoulder, Phillips jumped from his

vehicle and began pounding on the driver's window of the Lincoln, yelling that the car was on fire. Five adults piled out, and Phillips retrieved a small dog, clothing and a few other items from inside the car.

He called 911 to report the fire and began throwing snow on the flames.

"The flames were starting to come out of the trunk," he said.

Wisconsin State Trooper Sgt. Gary Bauer arrived minutes later.

"When I pulled on scene, the total rear-end of the car was completely engulfed in fire and caused one of the tires to explode with a pretty loud pop," he said.

Among the vehicle's passengers were two newlyweds, the bride's sister, aunt and grandmother. They were on their way from Chicago to the bride's home city in Minnesota, Bauer said.

Nobody was hurt, but after Milton firefighters extinguished the flames, the Yorkshire terrier was found dead inside the car.

"Possibly with the confusion, panic and Interstate traffic, the dog decided to jump back into the vehicle, probably was overcome by smoke first then perished," Bauer said.

The car was a total loss.

The occupants were taken to the Van Galder Bus terminal in Janesville and boarded a bus back to Chicago, he said.

Arrangements were made with the towing company to preserve the dog's remains for the family, Bauer said.

Bauer couldn't speculate what would have happened if Phillips hadn't flagged down the burning Lincoln, but he said it could have become a life-threatening situation.

Although the passengers didn't have a chance to talk with Phillips, they told Bauer they were thankful they were unharmed and safe.

Phillips didn't know the dog had died until one of the three troopers on scene called him at home later Tuesday night with questions.

Phillips wishes he wouldn't have set the dog down.

"I should have hung onto it," he said.

Last updated: 4:21 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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