Brandie Weiler was driving with her two girls over Easter weekend when she saw a car crash on the corner leading up to the highway. She stopped on the side of the road, called 911 and left her car to help the victims of the crash, but then the unthinkable happened.
She turned around, and saw a bearded man wrangling his way into her van where her two daughter still sat.
“I could see him going towards the van, and I’m screaming,” said Weiler. She later learned the man was Paul Salsman, who was responsible for the crash.
Maddie, 12, was sitting with her sister Mollie, 7, when she saw Salsman’s hand reach inside the car, unlock the door, and then climb in.
He was saying things like, “Let’s go,” and, “I need to get to this place,” Maddie remembered.
Mollie was terrified. “I thought he was going to take us,” she said.
But Maddie wasn’t having it.
“Nothing passed my mind except he’s a psycho and he needs to get out of the car,” she said. Maddie was not about to let this strange man drive off with her and her sister.
“I just went for it,” Maddie said.
She started hitting the man and yelled for help. Then, she put the car in drive, and held it there.
“That is a safety feature on the van,” Maddie explained. Holding the transmission in drive, there was no way for Salsman to start the car.
The 7-year-old was in awe of her sister’s quick thinking. “It was amazing, because she has never done that.”
The girls come from a family of police officers and firefighters, and she was told what to do in a potentially dangerous situation like this.
“She has always been told if anyone tries to take you, kick, scream, bite, hit, gouge out their eyes, whatever you have to do,” said her father, Steven Weiler. Even he was surprised that Maddie quickly thought to put the car into drive to thwart the carjacker.
“This could have been an Amber Alert had it not been for her thinking,” he said.