Aspiring Firefighter, 17, Facing 'Difficult' Recovery After Dune Buggy Flipped Over and Caught Fire

“I saw death in front of my eyes, and I didn’t know what to do," said America Salmeron

<p>Arno Avakian/GoFundMe</p> America Salmeron

Arno Avakian/GoFundMe

America Salmeron

A California teen still dreams of being a firefighter after being involved in a fiery dune buggy crash earlier this month.

America Salmeron, 17, was riding the dune buggy in Nevada when it flipped and burst into flames, according to CW affiliate KTLA and ABC affiliate KABC.

The aspiring firefighter crawled out of the wreckage moments before it exploded, per the outlets.

“I saw death in front of my eyes, and I didn’t know what to do,” Salmeron recalled, per KTLA. “But I told myself that if I don’t get myself out of here, no one will.”

Salmeron also said that thinking about her family motivated her to seek safety. "My family was the first thing I thought of,” she told KABC. “I needed to see them one more time.”

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The lifelong Pasadena resident sustained “severe burns” on about 51% of her body, “including third degree burns to her upper extremities,” according to a GoFundMe campaign for the teen organized by Arno Avakian, Captain of the Pasadena Fire Department.

Additionally, her speaking abilities have been “greatly impaired” from the injuries she sustained in the Sept. 9 crash, CBS affiliate KCBS-TV reported.

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<p>Arno Avakian/GoFundMe</p>

Arno Avakian/GoFundMe

Salmeron recently graduated from Pasadena High School and has been “a standout Explorer with the Pasadena Fire Department for over 18 months,” Avakian wrote on GoFundMe.

The young woman planned to attend Pasadena City College, where she hopes to receive a degree in Fire Science, and has always dreamed of becoming a firefighter, he added.

“She embodies everything a strong firefighter should be: kind, caring, empathetic, driven to succeed, and a willingness to never quit,” Avakian explained. “She always works through adversity and sees every challenge as an opportunity to better herself.”

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The PFD gave Salmeron a shout-out on Facebook, writing, “We’re here for you America,” and “Please know the entire Pasadena community is here to support you!”

Salmeron has already undergone “multiple surgeries” since the crash. Avakian said the young woman "has an extremely difficult and long road to recovery ahead of her" but believes "her character and mental fortitude will guide her through this."

Though she is facing difficult circumstances, Salmeron told KTLA she is “trying to move forward and stay positive.”

“Look, I managed to escape and I’m still wanting to become a firefighter,” she added.

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