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So I dropped a good friend off at the airport today, and on the way back, I was cruising along the highway and spot this Ford Taurus ahead.
He’s the only car ahead of me, but he’s maybe 200 meters ahead. And in slow motion, he drifts off the highway onto the shoulder.
His passenger side rides up on the crashbar on the side of the road, and one of the pylons slices through his gas tank, sending him spinning
I’d just merged onto 295 heading west, and as he spins, he takes out alight pole. Sparks go everywhere. A trail of gas follows him.
He careens back into traffic coming to a stop, and the car BURSTS into flames. I didn’t know cars DID that outside of the movies.
I wrench my car the shoulder. Nobody stops. People are going around him, and I see no life coming from this car.
My car is stopped right where the gas trail started (you can see it off in the distance in the first photo) and I break into a run.
The flames leap onto the gas trail and for a moment I’m blocked by 3 foot high flames. It sorta looks like Back To The Future.
There is still no sign of life from the car and at this point the entire driverside is enfgulfed in flames. The windows are totally black.
I get a little worried at this point. I don't want this person to die. I start looking around for a stick or something to open the door.
I can't find anything. A State Farm emergency vehicle pulls up behind me, and the guy seems super casual and starts getting cones out.
I shout to ask if he has a fire extinguisher, but then something explodes in the car and the flames get higher.
I honestly don't know what to do. I run around the back of the car, and see the passenger door open. Smoke billows out, and a man steps out.
Most of the passenger side isn't on fire yet, and the man appears really shaken, but unharmed. He stand by the door, dazed, unmoving.
A tire explodes with a loud bang, and he crouches in place. I make a bolt for him and grab his arm and yank him forward to the grass.
“We gotta get you outta here!” I yell above the roar of the fire, though I’m not quite sure who “we” is. He stumbles in my arms.
He’s tall, light skinned, thin. He’s got an orange reflective shirt on, and he’s clutching a toque. His reddish hair, reminds me of Malcolm.
“Where’s my friend?” He asks. I grow cold. “What friend?”

“He was driving. I was asleep in the passenger seat”

“Stay here!” I yell.
I kick the door open, and peer through the smoke. The fire is hot that it feels like a sunburn. There’s nobody else in the car.
I dart back to the man and something else pops in the car, sending flames skyward. The man starts towards the car “I gotta get my phone”
I grab his arm again “No. We’ll get you another one. Don’t worry about it.” I lead him down the road a little ways. He’s really confused.
“Where’s my friend?” He asks again.

“There’s no one else in the car” I tell him. “You were alone.”

“Then who was driving?” He asks.
“I think you were.” I tell him. I start to wonder how much of the smoke he sat and inhaled as he was sitting there. He coughs and spits.
Another emergency truck stops 400 meters in front of the accident, it’s lights flashing.

“I need to get into the cop car” he says.
“That’s not a cop car” I tell him, and sit him down in the grass in a safe spot. He’s clearly not ok. I hear sirens in the distance.
Traffic is STILL attempting to get by, squeezing around the car, which is totally engulfed by now.

“Can you call my girlfriend?” He asks
I punch in the number, and we call twice, but nobody picks up.

“I just bought that car.” He laments. The temp tag burns off the trunk.
“I bet they’re gonna give me a ticket. I’m gonna be in so much trouble”. He practically bends his half, his face in the dirt.
“It’ll be ok, dude. You’re alive. That’s just stuff. Don’t worry about that.”

“I just got off of work. Am I gonna lose my job?"
“Was it a long shift?” I ask. He doesn’t appear drunk. I’m thinking he fell asleep. He nods. A loud hiss goes off as another tire gives up.
With a roar, a firetruck pulls up, finally halting the traffic. They ignore the man and run up to me. “Are you the driver?”
I shake my head.
One firefighter attends to him, and the rest scurry to get a hose to the car. A cloud of black smoke towers upward.
3 more trucks pull up, and then some paramedics. They take them man to the ambulance. He’s so lost, and slipping into depression and shock.
The firefighters quickly get the hose running, but there’s nothing left to save. The State Farm guy approaches me and asks what I saw.
“I’ve never seen a car do that! I thought it was just in the movies” I say, watching the flames.
A tall firefighter approaches us, with a giant red mustache. He reminds me of Abraham from #TheWalkingDead.
“Happens more often than you’d think” he sighs. “I’m glad the guy was ok tho.”

“I’m rethinking my choice of car” I laugh
The Ford Taurus is the SAME model as my own, sitting there with it’s blinkers on in the emergency lane.
The firefighter claps me on the back. “Well, don’t fall asleep.” He roars in laughter at his own joke. I find it less funny.
The car is a smoldering hulk now, and a short clean cut cop runs up to our group. He looks around. “Wait. Am I the firs cop here??” He asks
The State Farm guy and the firefighter smirk and saunter off, and I tell the cop everything I saw.

He seems stunned, and kept saying “wow”.
He takes my license for info, since I’m the only one who stopped. More emergency vehicles show up, traffic is piling up.
Eventually a state trooper shows up, and I go through the story again. I peer at the screen in his jeep. The guy had a suspended license. :(
I left the trooper and sat next to the guy for a while, who’d gotten out of the ambulance and was sitting on the side of the road.
“Do you have insurance?” I ask. He shakes his head. “I just got the damn car” he says, “This is it for me."
I try to stay upbeat, but I’m starting to see his point of view.

“Dude’s gonna lock me up, I know it.” He says, pointing at the trooper.
“I know how this is gonna go.” He says. “I’m gonna lose my job, I’m gonna have to pay these fines, and I got no car now"
“I work hard.” He continues, “I don’t even have my phone”.

I don’t know what to say. He’s right. The trooper calls us over.
“They hate us.” He says as we walk.

“Who?” I ask, helping him forward

“Us.” He says.
“Where are they gonna take my car?” He asks the trooper. The emergency trucks begin pulling off.
The trooper pauses. “Can you give us a minute?” He asks me, and hands me my license. I head back to the wreck.
Every bit of plastic and rubber is gone from the car now. The firefighters mill about, trying to figure out how it happened.
Highway workers come by, and have me point out the place where the light pole whipped off into the woods.
The trooper and the State Farm guy come towards me. The trooper has me email him the first photo with the temp tag.
“Glad you were here” he says, “I thought he was driving without a plate at first."
“Glad?” Says the State Farm guy “You’re a hero.”

I deny this. “I’m not. I just stopped. He was on FIRE. Anybody woulda stopped."
I put his arm around me as we talk back. “C’mon man. You and I BOTH saw how many people just went around him. He was BBQ."
He’s right. And I really don’t want him to be. I really don’t want a world like that.

“What about YOU?” I protest “You stopped!"
He points at his State Farm badge. “I’m paid to stop.” He says “Part of the territory.” He pokes me in the chest “You’re not."
“Well…” I say. I don’t say anything for a moment. “Well, everyone SHOULD stop.”

“You’re right.” He says “I like that idea.”
The traffic is stretching to the horizon.

“Well, I guess we MADE them stop…” he laughs, and heads to his truck.
I head back to trooper. “Is he gonna be ok?” I ask.

“Eventually.” He says, “I’m going to go as easy as I can on him. He’s in a spot."
“Yeah. He told me.” I sigh.

“You did everything you could, and more than most” he assures me. “Call your people, let them know you’re ok."
It’s hard for me to leave, but it’s just me, the trooper, the guy, and his charred car.
"Before you go, one more question” the trooper says
“What color was his car?” He asks.

“Black. It was black” I say. I laugh. “I guess it’s still black…”

He laughs, we part.
I take one last look at the car. It’s literal toast.

I’m glad he’s alive.

I drive off.
Fin.
EPILOGUE: I got ahold of the state trooper, and got the contact information for the man whose car was wrecked.
I’m blurring it out because I don’t want to reveal this guy’s info.
I don’t know what else is going on with this guy, but I don’t want other people using this info for cruel purposes.
I have his phone number, but since his phone got cremated, I doubt that’s going to work.
I do have his physical address tho, so here’s the idea:

If anyone wants to donate anything, send it to my paypal:
paypal.me/Zerflin/
I will print out the receipt, get cash out, put it in an envelope, and drop off the money in his mailbox, with photos of everything.
If you want to include any messages to send to him too, I can do that too. I’ll cover the Paypal fees.
I’m not trying to scam anyone. If you’re not comfortable with this, that’s cool too, but I don’t want to share his info far and wide.
If nothing else, type out some encouragement for him and drop them into the contact form at the bottom of my site: benjancewicz.com
I’ll send them along with any donations.
I really think words of encouragement could really help someone in his position right now.
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