PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Richard Brewster was heading northbound on the Suncoast Parkway in Pasco County, Florida, at about 12:20 a.m. on the morning of Dec 29. That’s when he witnessed a horrific crash.
What he saw, the Florida Highway Patrol later confirmed, was an accident involving a car slamming head-on with another vehicle, after one of them was driving southbound in the northbound lanes.
“As we were coming up the embankment, all you see was just the implosion of all the steam, sparks, lights,” Brewster said. “I immediately ran over there and checked to see if [the driver] had a pulse.”
The Highway Patrol identified 30-year-old Ricca Soto as the driver of the Infiniti that was traveling southbound in the wrong lanes. After she slammed into the other car, her Infiniti burst into flames. The driver of the other vehicle was also injured.
“Everybody was like, ‘It’s on fire, back up, start moving,’ and I’m like, ‘No, she’s in here, come help me,'” Brewster said. “It seemed like I ran around that car a million times trying to get her out and then the other lady was on the phone with 911. “
Brewster said Pasco deputies arrived a few minutes later.
“The first officer showed up, he comes running up and he asked [if there was] somebody in there, and I said yeah, but I can’t get her out.”
The sheriff’s office released dramatic body camera video of the first responders first using their fire extinguishers to put out the flames. When that didn’t work, they used brute force to get Soto out of the car.
After a few minutes, deputies were successful and paramedics rushed Soto to a local hospital for treatment. Brewster believes if they had arrived any later, Soto would not have made it.
“As soon as they got her out, and away from the car, it literally went up, was engulfed in flames,” Brewster said. “It was seconds.”
Soto’s stepdaughter says her stepmother is still recovering at a local hospital and is thankful for Pasco’s finest.
“I’m really glad that the deputies were there,” Elizabeth Soto said. “It’s really challenging to even watch that video and know it’s somebody close to me.”
Deputies say the cause of the crash is under investigation. Soto’s ex-husband told WFLA that he believes Soto may have suffered a medical episode that caused the crash.