Actor Dick Van Dyke escapes unhurt from car fire on Los Angeles freeway

Mon Aug 19, 2013 10:36pm EDT
 
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By Steve Gorman and Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Veteran actor Dick Van Dyke, best known for his hit television comedy of the 1960s, survived a car fire unscathed on Monday when a passerby pulled him from the smoldering vehicle before it burst into flames on the side of a Los Angeles-area freeway.

A spokesman for the California Highway Patrol confirmed that the 87-year-old performer was the driver seen slumped over the steering wheel of a Jaguar that was reported to be on fire on the shoulder of the Ventura Freeway.

Van Dyke said a group of motorists who stopped to render assistance, one of them apparently an off-duty firefighter, saw him huddled in the driver's seat while he was trying to place a call for help and pulled him out of the car to safety.

"They thought I had passed out so they yanked me out of the car," Van Dyke recounted in an interview with the celebrity news website TMZ.com, saying he had not initially realized that his car was burning.

"It just started making a noise, and I thought I had a flat at first, then it started to smoke, then it burned to a crisp," he said smiling. He added that he was unhurt and got out of the vehicle "long before" it went up in flames.

Still, he counted himself lucky to be alive.

"Not only that, there was a fireman, a nurse and a cop just happened to be passing by. Somebody's looking after me."

The actor's publicist, Bob Palmer, said the car, a "brand new" Jaguar, inexplicably caught fire after Van Dyke heard an unusual noise while driving and pulled over to the shoulder of the freeway.   Continued...

 
Actor Dick Van Dyke Life holds his award backstage after recieving the life achievement award at the 19th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles, California January 27, 2013. REUTERS/Adrees Latif