Firefighters had to navigate slick, snowy roads to save a man from a car fire that broke out early Thursday morning on Highway 169 and Interstate 94 in Brooklyn Park.
There is nothing but a burned-out shell of what used to be a Chevrolet Suburban, and it's hard to believe that the driver who was unconscious inside made it out alive. Thanks to some heroic rescuers, however, he did just that.
Although obscured by snowfall and a wet window, the dash cam video taken from a police squad shows the beginning of a harrowing story. An unconscious driver still had his foot on the pedal, and the tires were spinning so fast, they caught fire. Quickly, the flames moved to the gas tank.
Officer Jesse Mathwig banged on the window to try to get him out, but even though he used a baton to try and break out a window to get to the victim, the baton broke instead.
"Their concern was how much time to do we have to get out of the vehicle now?" said Maple Grove Police Sgt. Jeff Garland.
With the car burning, the officer tried again with a flashlight. This time, the glass broke -- but the driver didn't move. Meanwhile, the firefighters trying to get to the scene were literally stuck in the gridlock.
Fire crews were able to slowly move down the center line while Mathwig and a Hennepin County deputy pulled the man away from inferno. They found he was breathing, but barely.
"He told me flat out, 'You know, if I would have been there a minute later, I don't know what would have happened,'" Garland relayed. "You could tell by the tone in his voice that it probably would have went bad for the driver."
'NOT ENOUGH WORDS'
The victim, identified as 58-year-old Douglas Aure, was taken to HCMC in critical condition. He was upgraded to satisfactory condition on Friday.
Thursday afternoon, Aure's daughter, Rachael, released the following statement:
"I want to thank everyone involved with rescuing my dad today. There are not enough words to say it -- but thank you. It's so amazing to me that people risk their lives to save others -- and I'm so grateful they were able to get to my dad as fast as they did."