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Army Maj. Protects Accident Victim

April 23, 1998

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ Army Maj. Odie Butler didn’t hesitate to pull off a highway during the morning rush when he saw an overturned van and a crumpled body.

A woman had been severely injured and Butler stood guard over her for 45 minutes.

He watched Tuesday as cars zipped past, enduring insults and obscene gestures from motorists angry over the traffic jam the accident created.

``They didn’t stop to see if the person was OK or not. One guy was yelling, `Get that crap out of the road.′ That’s something you don’t expect,″ Butler said.

One driver flashed a middle finger at him.

The van had just overturned on Interstate 395 when Butler arrived.

``It looked like there was a body off to the side of the road, so I pulled off,″ Butler said Wednesday in a telephone interview from the Pentagon, where he works as an operations officer.

Butler found Marta Duran, 36, lying on the road near the van, her face bloodied and her legs twisted beneath her. Her body was mostly out of the roadway, but motorists drove past, unfazed by her plight.

Butler tried to find someone with a cellular phone who could call for help, but six or seven drivers rebuffed him before a driver said he’d already made a call. The man also stopped and waited with Butler, who was trying to comfort the woman and protect her from further injury.

Butler, 38, of Lorton, said the hostile commuters seemed to blame him for the accident and 15-mile traffic backup it caused on the major artery carrying commuters from the Virginia suburbs to their jobs in Washington.

``That may have added to their discourteous attitude,″ he said.

Ms. Duran was a passenger in a van driven by her boss, Jose Rivas, 29, of Springfield, police said. Rivas told investigators he lost control of the van while slowing for other traffic. The van hit a guardrail and flipped, throwing Ms. Duran.

Ms. Duran had taken off her seat belt moments before the crash to use a bronchial inhaler, police said.

She was hospitalized in critical but stable condition with severe head injuries Wednesday. Rivas was in fair condition.

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