Police, Patriot Guard help crash victims in Indiana - 1/24/12

VALPARAISO, Ind. — Police and motorcyclists escorting the body of a fallen soldier home from Afghanistan stopped to pull four people — including 6-year-old twins — out of a burning Jeep following a crash Saturday in northwest Indiana.

Porter County police said Ana Pina, 35, of South Bend, was driving west on US 30 about 10 a.m. when her Jeep was rear-ended by a pickup truck. The Jeep caught fire and veered across the median in front of the procession from the airport to Hamlet, the hometown of Spc. Robert J. Tauteris Jr., who was killed earlier this month.

Police said Porter County Sheriff’s Police Sgt. Matt Edwards, who was leading the procession, and state police Cpl. Dan Becker saw the crash and rushed to help along with riders from the Patriot Guard motorcycle unit. The officers and the motorcyclists then pulled Pina, her 6-year-old children and her mother from the burning wreckage, authorities said.

Pina and her daughter were taken to a hospital in Valparaiso and then flown to a Chicago area hospital’s trauma center with severe injuries and burns. Pina’s mother and son were taken a hospital in Hobart with minor injuries.

Police said Edwards was treated for smoke inhalation and released, and Becker had smoke inhalation and minor burns and was being kept overnight for observation. Several Patriot Guard riders were also treated at local hospitals for minor burns and injuries.

Police said the pickup’s driver, 76-year-old John Buibish, of Grovertown, got a bloody nose when the airbag deployed.  

Tauteris was one of four Indiana National Guard soldiers with the Valparaiso-based 713th Engineering Company killed Jan. 6 when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan. His funeral and visitation were scheduled for Sunday in North Judson.