A quick-thinking auto executive plowed his jeep into a burning SUV to free passengers stuck in another vehicle in a horrific scene caused by a drunk driver that left one person dead.
Ralph Gilles, the head of design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, was driving with his wife, Doris, when he came across a two-car accident in Addison Township, Michigan, during the early morning hours on February 18. Just before Gilles arrived, a 2013 Ford Fiesta collided head-on with a 2013 Ford Edge SUV that crossed the road’s center line, according to the Oxford Leader.
When the couple came across the accident, Gilles got out of his Jeep Wrangler to help the two occupants stuck inside the SUV. As much as they tried to pry the doors open, they wouldn’t budge.
As the vehicles remained on the road, a Buick sedan—driven by a 26-year-old driver—struck the Fiesta and pushed it into the SUV, causing its engine to ignite. While the driver of the Edge escaped, the driver and passenger of the Fiesta remained trapped with the flames rising. Gilles surmised that if they were going to find a way out for the passengers, they were going to have to do it quickly.
“I figured the fire department would take a while to get there . . . at that time of day,” Gilles told the newspaper. “I had to do something fast.”
He returned to his Jeep Wrangler, put it into four-wheel drive and used it to push the burning Edge away from the passengers.
“I still have no idea where that (thought) came from,” he told the Oxford Leader. “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. All I could think about were the two people still inside the other car.”
Thanks to Gilles removing the SUV away from the vehicle, he gave firefighters enough time to arrive and retrieve both of the passengers—who were husband and wife—from the trapped Fiesta.
Gilles said he was fortunate he didn’t grab his other car that morning—a Dodge Charger—because it wouldn’t have been able to muster the traction needed to push another vehicle from the road.
While the husband from the Fiesta is listed as being in stable condition at McLaren Oakland hospital, his 57-year-old wife died of her injuries hours later.
The driver of the Ford Edge—who caused the initial accident—was a 36-year-old man who admitted to drinking while at the scene, according to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.
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
About a week after the accident, Gilles responded on social media to all those who have sent him praise for his actions on that Sunday morning. But the auto executive was quick to point out that he didn’t consider himself a hero.
“Just saw all the kind words about last weekends sad events. I am no hero just was there at a critical time,” he wrote. “Thank you all for the kind words. Respect to all the true daily heroes our first responders!”