Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Head of Design, Ralph Gilles, may have saved a life earlier this month when he used his Jeep Wrangler to push a burning vehicle away from another crashed car before it, too, had the chance to catch fire.
The Oxford Leader reports that Mr. and Mrs. Considine, 60 and 57, were driving their 2013 Ford Fiesta in the early hours of Sunday, the 18th of February when an oncoming 2013 Ford Edge strayed over the line and struck the small car. The crash happened in Addison Township, Michigan, and the first person on the scene was Ralph Gilles, who was returning home with his wife Doris in their Jeep Wrangler.
“It looked like it [had] just happened based on the steam and the fact that the gentleman [driving the Edge] was clearly just getting out of his car,” Gilles told the Oxford Leader.
Doris Gilles dialed 9-1-1 while Ralph got out to try and help the Edge driver extricate the Considine couple from the Fiesta, to no avail. He returned to his Jeep in order to move it out of the way when, suddenly, a 26-year-old woman in a 1997 Buick LeSabre broadsided the Fiesta, pushing it into the Edge and causing the Edge to go up in flames.
Thinking fast, Ralph Gilles quickly drove his Jeep Wrangler up to the crashed vehicles and used it to push the burning Edge crossover away from the disabled Fiesta.
“I still have no idea where that [thought] came from,” FCA’s Global Head of Design 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.”
“I figured the fire department would take a while to get there… I had to do something fast,” he said.
Tragically, Mrs. Considine later died from injuries sustained during the crash, but Mr. Considine was reported in stable condition after the incident. The driver of the LeSabre sustained only minor injuries, while the driver of the Edge appeared to be unhurt by the crash.
Addison Fire Chief Jerry Morawski says that removing the Considine couple from their wrecked Ford Fiesta took 22 minutes. He called Ralph Gilles’ actions “heroic,” saying the accident could have ended much worse of he hadn’t acted.
Gilles doesn’t consider his actions heroic, but he did give credit to his Jeep Wrangler, saying: “Had I been in my [Dodge] Challenger, I wouldn’t have had the traction to do it. Luckily, we had the Jeep that night. I put it in four-wheel drive and it worked perfectly.”
As of earlier this week, an investigation into whether the driver of the Ford Edge acted negligently was underway. The Oakland County Sheriff’s Department says that “alcohol appears to [have been] a factor” in the crash.