It’s hard to believe, but a fatal drunk driving accident in Addison Township, Michigan last month could’ve been a whole lot worse. But a quick-thinking good samaritan saved the victims from even further disaster.
In the early hours of Sunday, February 18, a Ford Fiesta was heading down Lakeville Road, driven by a 60-year-old Goodrich man, with his wife in the passenger seat.
Suddenly, another vehicle crossed over the center line and collided with them head-on.
The driver of that Ford Edge, a 36-year-old from St. Clair, later admitted to being intoxicated behind the wheel.
After the accident, the two cars were sitting on the road with all the passengers still inside. Then, another vehicle came down the road and made things even worse.
“She comes along—it’s dark out, obviously—and she broadsides the Fiesta which pushes that into the Edge and the Edge catches on fire,” Deputy Jerry Yaldoo, of the sheriff’s Crash Reconstruction Unit, said to the Oxford Leader.
As the Edge’s engine combusted, the driver was able to get himself out … but the other couple wasn’t so lucky.
They were trapped inside the car as the tall flames were spreading towards them.
But just at that moment, someone else arrived on the scene: a man named Ralph Gilles, returning from an event with his wife, Doris. Gilles also happens to be the global head of design for Fiat Chrysler.
They were the first to arrive on the scene, and could see the flames. Gilles knew there was no time to waste.
“I figured the fire department would take a while to get there at that time of day,” he told the Oxford Leader.
“I had to do something fast.”
Gilles realized the only hope was to use his own car, a Jeep Wrangler, to push the couple away from the flames.
“The only thing I can remember thinking [is] I’ve got a Jeep, it’s got a bumper on it, I think I can do this,” he said. “All I could think about were the two people still inside the other car.”
He put the car in four-wheel drive, drove towards the flaming wreckage, and gently guided the Fiesta away from the other cars to the opposite shoulder.
A long and sad night a week ago I will never forget. By now many of you have read the story. We were first on the scene. I am NOT a hero, I think most people would have tried to help somehow. Understanding cars and their limitations may have played a factor sure. What ultimately turned out to be a 2 hour ordeal for us as we filled out Police reports, gave us a unique view of the whole process. It made us appreciate the true heroes. The first responders, Firemen/women, EMS and Police who deal with this stuff everyday day. It also made Doris and I realize how life can change in moments. Had I been standing in between the two crashed cars as I was just moments prior to the third car arriving. I likely would be part of history. Lets all drive heads up all the time. My deepest condolences to the family of the woman who sadly passed away at the hospital.
While he told the Oxford Leader he didn’t know where that idea came from, he later wrote on Instagram that his job experience came in handy: “Understanding cars and their limitations may have played a factor [for] sure.”
With his quick thinking, he was able to save the couple from being trapped in a burning vehicle.
Sadly, the story doesn’t have an entirely happy ending: the passenger in the car, 57-year-old Misty Considine, later died in the hospital due to the accident. The drunk driver was arrested.
But Considine’s husband survived, and Gilles was praised for his actions.
“That guy did a pretty heroic thing,” Addison Fire Chief Jerry Morawski said. “I think the guy did a great job. (If he hadn’t taken action,) it could have been worse.”
But Gilles downplayed his heroics.
“I am NOT a hero,” he wrote on Instagram. “I think most people would have tried to help somehow.”
He also added that the incident made him realize how easily it could’ve been him and his wife:
“It also made Doris and I realize how life can change in moments.”
Whoa…haven’t checked my Twitter in a bit. Just saw all the kind words about last weekends sad events. I am no hero just was there at a critical time. Thank you all for the kind words. Respect to all the true daily heroes our first responders!
— Ralph Gilles (@RalphGilles) February 25, 2018