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Vehicle fire reported. Oh no. He got someone.

Angels in the Fire: The Dramatic True Story of an Impossible Rescue

The sudden impact between the two cars sends a bright fireball over the highway, surely seen by every driver within half a mile. Just as quickly, the fireball evaporates and leaves a flickering hulk of twisted metal in its place on the road, the two cars now crumpled to almost half their original size and standing just inches apart. Almost a dozen cars come to an abrupt halt and some of the occupants race toward the smoldering masses of metal.

Fear rips through the night air. There is no way anyone could survive a crash that horrific. Troy Lynne reaches the cars first; the driver of the red BMW is clearly dead. Lynne looks at the other car, which is still burning. Incredibly, both people inside are stirring—alive! The front end of the car is pushed in more than four feet; the doors are jammed shut. He waves frantically toward the horde coming upon the scene, shouting for a fire extinguisher. Ihave no recollection of that night following my admonition to Tracey to keep her seat belt on.

After our violent impact, Tracey could only look at me in confusion, silently imploring What happened?

I stared back. Then I reached over to try to unbuckle our seat belts. It was too much for Tracey to comprehend. Am I dreaming? The screams outside the car brought her back to reality. Her head was swimming with incredible pain and dizzying thoughts. She could see flames licking at my legs and heard me scream. Other vehicles began coming upon the wreck. The second shift of a nearby factory had just ended, and a trio of men in one vehicle moved into action. As they raced to the scene with a co-worker, Mike Walters, some grabbed fire extinguishers, but nothing seemed to calm the flames.

Gas was gushing in spurts from beneath our Ford sedan, and with every surge a loud whoosh erupted as it hit the pavement and ignited. Lynne and others tried to pull Tracey out through a small opening between the sunroof and window, but it was as though they were trying to lift the entire car with her. She screamed as her rescuers tried to move her amid the intensifying heat. As Lynne and others continued to try to extract Tracey, Debevec realized I had caught fire and ran to my side of the car with Walters and Longwell.

They tried to force open my door without success, so they pounded the window with their fists and rocks, but it seemed to resist every blow. Nearly climbing onto the car door, he pulled with every ounce of strength he could muster. Meanwhile, the flames inside were creeping up my legs. The window frame suddenly yielded, and as he peeled it back, the window shattered. A searing wind shot through the opening and pushed them back.


I raised my arms, grabbed the roof of the car, and pulled myself up through the opening. Debevec, Walters, and Longwell ran back to the car, grabbed me under my arms, and pulled me from the wreck, smothering the flames with their hands. Get my wife out! I shouted. Others were still frantically trying to pull Tracey out. Another rescuer, James Vellum, reached through the hole in the roof, but still felt resistance as he tugged. I could hear her scream, and then the crowd began to panic.

Vellum tried using a two-by-four someone handed him to pry open the door, but it snapped in two. The flames continued to grow more intense.

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Another man tried breaking the window with a spent fire extinguisher, but that attempt failed as well. With every swing it just bounced stubbornly off of the window. Flames now filled the car and pinned Tracey against the window. The rescuers seemed powerless to help, and the crowd backed away, fearing an explosion. In the midst of this confusion and horror, a woman in the crowd sank to her knees on the pavement and began to pray—pleading with God to help the rescuers.


As she prayed, Pedro Gimenez saw a silent lone figure walk out of the woods. The glow of the fire grew brighter against his face as he drew closer to the car. But as Gimenez watched, it became clear that the glow was not a reflection of the car fire—it was emanating from the figure. He was seeing. At that moment, Ben Williams, who had been riding with Debevec and Longwell, helped the only way he could think of—he began to pray for hope and healing. He later described it: As I stood in the middle of the road that night with all the activity and confusion going on around me, I just kept praying.

Then I suddenly felt an intense rush come over me. I knew the Lord was healing the people in that car. It was a wonderful, incredible feeling; I just sat there on the pavement in awe. Tracey looked at the horrified faces surrounding the car. She locked eyes with one woman who was crying.

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  4. The searing heat sucked her breath away; her lungs felt as if they would burst from within. Then Tracey could feel and smell the flesh on her face burning. Please, God, she prayed, take me now before I burn to death. An instant later she looked up and saw an incredible sight—Jesus was reaching out to her. At that moment Tracey seemed to float to heaven, just as Longwell was able to remove her lifeless body from the car.

    Angels in the Fire The Dramatic True Story of an Impossible Rescue

    After Dann and I went out for our fourth anniversary that night, I remember waving good-bye to my brother Tommy after we reached I I told Dann I was going to take a nap on the way home. The last thing I remember was him telling me to keep my seat belt on, which I did. My next memory was of intense pain. I recall seeing and hearing people yelling and screaming outside our car windows. I thought I was dreaming, but quickly realized this was no dream.

    Angels in the Fire - A True Story

    I turned my head and looked at Dann. I can still see him, both of us with helpless expressions. I looked down at his legs and realized he was on fire. I tried to get to him, but could not move because the dash and the engine were pressing against my legs. Everything below my waist had been crushed.

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