An Arizona man heroically rescued two young girls from the back of a burning vehicle on the side of a highway moments before it exploded.
Sam Heiler, 30, told Fox News that he was traveling to a Memorial Day Weekend destination with his wife on a remote highway in Navajo County when the engine in the car ahead of them caught fire.
Both cars pulled over and Heiler said the parents of the two toddlers jumped out of the front seat. But when they closed their doors behind them, the car instantly locked and they were unable to get the children out of the back seat.
“The parents were freaking out, screaming and punching the windows with their bare hands, both the back windows in front of the babies,” Heiler said.
But their blows to the glass proved futile.
“They had about 20 more seconds until the fire spread from the engine block to the cab. The girls were screaming, the parents were screaming, my wife was screaming — it was bad.”
Heiler, realizing the need to act quickly, picked up a rock from the side of the road and hurled it at the front window, breaking the glass so the doors could be opened from the inside.
“[The kids’ dad] followed suit, but from the panic, attempted to throw rocks at the back windows where the girls would have been covered with glass and a heavy rock had it broken through. All the while, the flames had now spread to completely covering the front hood of the car, and the two- and three-year old are screaming,” Heiler’s wife, Melissa, told Fox.
Once the doors were opened, Melissa said her husband unbuckled the girls and helped their parents get them out of the car. They all retreated to the Heilers car, which was pulled over about 30 feet away.
“When the fire hit the fuel tank it made a legitimate fireball explosion,” recalled Heiler.
Dramatic footage after the blast shows the vehicle roasting on the roadside, completely engulfed in flames.
Sam Heiler said there was no phone service where they were, but he flagged down another driver with a glowstick he had in his car. He asked the driver to call 911 when he got service again — which was about 25 miles up the road.
Reservation police eventually arrived at the scene, Heiler said.
For hours after the incident, spot fires broke out in the area that had spread from the car.
Melissa Heiler told Fox her husband’s initial reaction was to just keep driving after the car first pulled over.
“But, in that same instant, something came over him, and he felt like he had to stop and see if he could help.”
“Divine intervention, no doubt in our minds,” she added.