A Georgia woman named Monica Westbrook recently experienced the scariest moment of her life when she got trapped inside her burning car. Fortunately, a kind stranger driving by helped her escape unscathed.
Monica said she was driving down Interstate 75 on her way to work when her car suddenly slowed due to mechanical problems. She then coasted to the exit ramp, where it shut down completely and began emitting smoke.
But when she tried to exit the car, the door wouldn’t budge.
“The smoke started getting heavier and heavier, and that’s when I said, ‘Oh my God, this car is going to catch on fire,’” she told WMAZ.
Seeing her car filling with smoke, Monica went into panic mode and struggled to think. She started kicking on the back glass, trying to get out through the trunk, but it didn’t work.
Worse, none of the drivers who saw the scene bothered to stop and help as the flames inside the vehicle continued to spread.
“Cars were coming down the ramp and they were just going by,” she recalled. “I just knew I was gone.”
Luckily, Eric Zastawrny, a safety manager, was driving down the same interstate. Upon seeing the fire, he immediately stopped and took out a fire extinguisher he got from the company car he was using.
Not realizing there was a person inside, Eric broke one of the car’s windows with the extinguisher. Once he saw Monica, the Good Samaritan pulled her through to safety.
“When he pulled me out of the car, I just held onto him, and he just held on tighter,” Monica, who wishes there were “more Erics,” said of her savior.
“Eric is definitely a hero and I will be forever grateful for him,” she added. “Eric now has a new Monica.”
For the man, it was just the right thing to do.
“Be a good neighbor, be willing to help somebody out. It clearly goes a long ways,” he said.
Eric said he felt like it was fate that he was there at the time. When the pair met again, Monica gave her a card and flowers as a thank you.
According to a Detroit Free Press article published in 2018, experts say that the first step to getting out of a vehicle that won’t open is not to panic. Then, check every lock and window of the car and attract attention by honking the horn.
If you need to break a window, a tool called a “safety” or “emergency” hammer can be used to shatter it. They usually retail for around $10 to $20 at online shops.
Another incident of a Good Samaritan saving people from a fire happened in Mesa, Arizona.
A gentleman helped police officers rescue two young children from an apartment complex fire last month. When he saw the fire from a nearby car wash, he abandoned his car to assist with the operation.
The man jumped over a fence, stood on an air conditioning unit, and ripped out the window frame with his bare hands. As thick billows of smoke started coming out of the room, he hoisted himself inside to retrieve a two-year-old girl. He handed her over to an officer waiting on the ground and proceeded to rescue another child, reportedly six years old.
“According to all who were there, it if wasn’t for the citizen who assisted, the outcome of this incident may have been different,” the Mesa Police Department said in a statement.
The man didn’t want to be identified and said he only wanted to help rescue the kids. You can read more about this story here.
Listen to Monica and Eric recall their story in the video below.
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