Witness Helps Driver Escape Burning Car On Salt Flats; Body Cam Video Shows Police Response

Sep 25, 2019, 10:56 PM | Updated: Sep 26, 2019, 2:22 pm

WENDOVER, Utah — When two Wendover Police officers arrived at the scene of a burning car on the Salt Flats Sunday, they still believed someone was potentially trapped inside the vehicle.

However, not long after using their own extinguishers in an attempt to douse the flames shooting from the burning BMW, they learned everyone had gotten out of the car safely thanks to a witness who jumped in to help.

Corporal Rick Giles and Officer Nick Francis responded Sunday evening to an area just north of I-80 near milepost seven to find the car fully-engulfed and spewing hot air.

“It was easily over 150, 200 degrees,” Francis said. “I don’t want to say this as a law enforcement officer, but if there was someone indeed, in fact, in the vehicle when that fire was going, they would not be here today.”

Adding to the confusion at the time was that the driver, who was standing away from the vehicle when officers arrived, suggested his girlfriend was in the car.

Though witness Daniel Lewis said he was confident no one else was in the vehicle when he helped pull the driver to safety, officers made sure.

Newly-released body camera video documented the frantic response and also the moments afterward as the officers questioned the driver and Lewis.

The driver was conscious, though he appeared to be in pain.

Police said he suffered head injuries.

Lewis said he was driving along I-80 on his way to Elko when he saw the car traveling at a high rate of speed along the Salt Flats.

“I watched this gentleman come flying past on the salt,” Lewis told officers at the time. “I bet he was doing 130-plus.”

Lewis said the car ended up colliding with a berm and wrecking.

“He just hit it and (there was) just this big cloud of dirt and I saw his car—it was up there,” Lewis told police.

The girlfriend, investigators said, was never inside the wrecked car and eventually was found with some of the driver’s friends.

The man ended up being flown to the University of Utah Hospital, officers said.

Tooele County Sheriff Paul Wimmer said the crash remained under investigation.

In a phone interview with KSL Wednesday afternoon, Lewis said he was grateful he was in the right place at the right time.

He said he hoped if he were in the same situation, somebody would do the same and step in to help him.

“I don’t know if he would have gotten away from the car in time,” Lewis said. “I feel good I was able to help him.”

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Witness Helps Driver Escape Burning Car On Salt Flats; Body Cam Video Shows Police Response