When Dave Craik and his buddy saw an SUV veer across Lougheed Highway and catch fire Saturday evening, they couldn’t believe their eyes.
It was just after 10:30 p.m. and the pair were on their way home, travelling eastbound by Meadowtown Shopping Centre when the accident happened.
An SUV in front of them veered suddenly from the fast lane through two lanes of traffic, hitting the concrete barrier along the off-ramp to the mall before rolling onto the driver’s side and bouncing off of the hydro pole.
That’s when Craik, his friend and nine other bystanders jumped into action.
“It was on fire on impact. By the time it was engulfed in flames I would probably say realistically about three to four minutes,” said Craik, who first noticed the fire under the hood by the front windshield.
Craik opened up the rear passenger-side door while the car was still up on its side.
At 6 foot 5 inches Craik was easily able to see inside. Along with the unconscious driver there were three children in the back seat that were moving around and a woman in the front seat.
“We were like okay, we are going to roll the car on its wheels,” he said, explaining that there would be no way they could get the people out in time if they didn’t do that.
The nine men rolled the car up over the top of the barrier and onto it’s wheels again.
“We going against gravity on that one,” said Craik who was only wearing flip flops.
Then they started pulling everyone out.
All of the doors opened freely except for the driver’s door.
“We got everyone else out first. Somebody else was working on the driver’s side door at the same time. There was so much help around there it was unbelievable,” said Craik.
The men were having problems with the driver’s door. They were using their hands to try and pry the door open but it wouldn’t budge.
Then another bystander jumped in to help.
“There was three or four of us trying to reef on the door and he got in there and started reefing even harder,” said Craik noting that the driver’s leg was wedged between the door and the seat which added even more urgency to the situation.
When the men got the door open enough to get the driver out they carried his limp body to the side of the road. The driver seemed to be gasping for breath and did move one of his arms a bit but remained unresponsive.
Craik stayed with the family who were on the opposite side of the car and tried to calm them down because he didn’t want them to see their loved one in that condition.
“One girl kept asking how’s my dad, how’s my dad,” said Craik who assured her her dad was out of the burning vehicle and being helped.
When paramedics showed up they started doing CPR and had to use a automated external defibrillator on the man.
There were at least three ambulances on scene and everyone was taken to hospital.
The driver had life-threatening injuries.
Craik helped out with traffic control which was needed since one vehicle actually drove up the ramp into the mall, passing right by the accident and driving over the debris.
Eastbound lanes of the highway were then closed down at about 11:40 p.m. when Ridge Meadows RCMP started their investigation.