Bystanders rescue unresponsive driver from burning car
Vehicle crossed median, struck tree, burst into flames, police say
MADISON, Wis. — Bystanders braved thin ice to pull a Lake Mills man from his burning vehicle early Saturday, police said.
The Madison Police Department said a 41-year-old was driving south on John Nolen Drive at 2:32 a.m. when the vehicle crossed the median, traveled into oncoming traffic and went off the roadway striking a tree. The vehicle came to rest on the ice on Lake Monona.
Lt. Eric Tripke said the collision with the tree ruptured the vehicle’s fuel tank, causing it to burst into flames.
Mitch Speigle and Drew Hanson just happened to be driving by.
“I haven’t experienced anything like that before in my life,” Hanson says.
The men immediately turned their car around to help.
“There was no time to think,” Hanson said. “You just have to help someone, because he was in dire need of it. His life was at risk for sure.”
Speigle and Hanson attempted to pull the driver from his burning car, at first in vain.
“His leg started on fire, and so we were throwing water on it trying to get it out,” Speigle remembers. “That fire was getting hot, like it was burning my fingers hot, and that seatbelt wasn’t coming off.”
Luckily, a passerby offered up a knife to the two, and they were able to drag the man up onto the bank and wait with him while first responders showed up.
Neither Speigle nor Hanson consider themselves particularly heroic – instead, they chalk it all up to instinct and good timing.
“At the end of the day, we just we saw something that needed to be done, and we went over and got it done,” Speigle said. “It comes down to, you’re a human being and I’m a human being, and I owe it to you to give it my best effort and to essentially put my life on the line to save your life.”
Before he was pulled from the vehicle, the driver was wearing his seat belt and unresponsive, according to the report.
Tripke said the driver was taken to the hospital where he was in critical condition Saturday morning due to burns and other injuries.
Police said it wasn’t clear Saturday morning what caused the vehicle to swerve.