News

Dick Van Dyke escapes unhurt from car fire

Dick Van Dyke escapes unhurt from car fire

A passerby pulled Dick Van Dyke from a car before it burst into flames. Photo: Reuters

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.

He quoted Van Dyke, who had been on his way to a dental appointment, saying afterward, “The only thing I’m embarrassed about is that I could never figure out that damned car.”

‘HE’S FINE, THANK GOD’

Firefighters were “quickly able to extinguish the flames and evaluate the driver’s medical condition. He did not require transport to a medical facility,” Los Angeles city fire department spokesman Erik Scott said.

Palmer said the actor was back at his home and was fine.

A six-second video clip posted on Twitter by Van Dyke’s wife, Arlene, showed the performer’s charred vehicle on the freeway and a brief glimpse of the actor talking to officials at the scene. Van Dyke appeared unharmed in the video clip.

A caption accompanying the clip said: “Van Dyke’s melted car … He’s fine thank God!!”

The tall, lanky actor, whose air of affability and gift for physical comedy helped make “The Dick Van Dyke Show” one of the most beloved sitcoms in U.S. television history, received a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild in January.

The sitcom, co-starring Mary Tyler Moore as his wife, ran on CBS from the fall of 1961 to the fall of 1966 and continued on in syndicated reruns for decades. His role as the comedy writer and family man Rob Petrie, earned him three Emmy awards.

Van Dyke also starred in the family musical movies “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” and the original Broadway cast of the Tony-winning musical “Bye Bye Birdie.” He reprised his stage role for a 1963 film version of that show.

He scored another prime-time hit with the crime drama “Diagnosis Murder” in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Recent Headlines

in Sports

Tavares scores 4, Team Toews outscores Team Foligno, 17-12

Fresh
The rink at Nationwide Arena is prepared for the NHL All-Star hockey weekend in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015.

John Tavares of the New York Islanders matched a record with four goals, and Team Toews beat Team Foligno 17-12 on Sunday night in the highest-scoring NHL All-Star game.

in Local Sports

Thomas says shoulder “pretty good”, will play in Super Bowl

Fresh
Seattle Seahawks' Earl Thomas in action against the San Francisco 49ers in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, in Seattle.

Seahawks All-Pro safety Earl Thomas pronounced his separated left shoulder "pretty good" when the team arrived Sunday for the Super Bowl.

in Local Sports

Bellingham Blazers skate past Eugene

bellingham blazers logo with text

The Bellingham Blazers defeated the Eugene Generals 16-2 Saturday night.

in Local Sports

Quinn has led Seattle to record setting defense

WP-SeahawksDanQuinn

Seattle was one of three defenses in league history to lead the NFL in scoring defense in three straight seasons.

in Sports

Coach K gets 1,000th win as No. 5 Duke tops St. John’s

Updated
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia Tech in Durham, N.C., Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. Duke won 66-48.

Mike Krzyzewski earned his 1,000th career win Sunday, making him the first NCAA Division I men's coach to reach the milestone.