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Youths rescued from burning vehicle flee police

A stolen vehicle caught fire early Sunday after smashing into this tree in the 300 block of Grace Avenue in Willmar. The driver and a passenger were pulled out of the burning vehicle by nearby residents and then fled the scene. The suspected driver was located and was admitted to Rice Memorial Hospital with multiple injuries. ==Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

WILLMAR -- Two juvenile males who were pulled from a burning vehicle they had reportedly stolen and crashed into a tree early Sunday in a residential Willmar neighborhood, fled on foot before police arrived at the scene.

An unidentified 17-year old, believed to be the driver, was later located and arrested. He is currently being treated at Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar and faces multiple charges.

Police are still searching for the second individual.

"He hasn't turned up at the morgue and he hasn't turned up at a hospital," said Police Sergeant Mike Markkanen.

Police alerted regional hospitals to be on the lookout for an injured juvenile male.

Markkanen said police want to find the second individual "because it was a stolen vehicle, so there is a crime there."

According to the preliminary report, a 1998 Dodge Caravan Sport Van crashed into a tree around 3:30 a.m. Sunday in the boulevard of the 300 block of Grace Avenue.

Nearby residents heard the crash and ran outside to find the vehicle on fire.

Witnesses pulled two males out of the vehicle, which was fully engulfed by the time police arrived minutes later.

"There's no doubt the citizens saved their lives," said Markkanen, praising those who ran from their homes to rescue the juveniles.

Despite their injuries, the two boys fled on foot before police arrived.

Markkanen said adrenaline, and perhaps drugs and alcohol, may have played a role in the injured youths' ability to run away.

It was later determined the vehicle was stolen from the 400 block of 11th Street Southwest. The vehicle had not been reported stolen and it's likely the owner hadn't realized it was gone when the crash occurred, according to police.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750