Stolen car crashes into gas pump, triggers big fire

by: Richard Thompson Updated:


CHEHALIS, Wash. - Surveillance video obtained by KIRO-7 shows a man crashing a stolen car into gas pumps and starting a big fire. The incident happened Friday morning at the ARCO station south of Chehalis on Highway 12.

ARCO employee Victor Mendoza heard the crash and knew something was wrong. Mendoza ran outside toward the pumps and saw they were on fire.

As the video continues, a customer can be seen quickly driving out of the danger zone. Mendoza told KIRO 7 he ran to the emergency shut off valve and pushed it, stopping the flow of additional fuel to the pumps.
The gas already spilled continued to fiercely burn, and Mendoza feared there would be an explosion.

"Big flames. I thought it was going to burn the whole building."

The man who allegedly crashed the stolen car, John Loutzenhiser, can be seen in the video running around the vehicle. Prosecutors say he may have been under the influence of pain killers at the time.

Amid the chaos, Victor Mendoza and another customer are seen in the video using fire extinguishers to finally get the flames under control.

Several customers actually held Loutzenhiser until police arrived to arrest him. Monday afternoon, Loutzenhiser appeared in Lewis County Superior Court, charged with hit-and-run and possession of a stolen vehicle. A judge ordered him held on $20,000 bail. 

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