Braden Szakaly was northbound driving into Langdon last Saturday in what was seeming to be another regular day, but that all changed in an instant when he saw a horrific car crash on the side of the road.
The upside-down car was in a ditch, and even worse was that it was on fire. Recognizing that this was a potential life-or-death scenario, Szakaly immediately set his sights on putting the fire out however he could.
"As I'm pulling up, I made sense of what was going on, there was there was a man with two young girls on the side of the road and he was calling 911. I just hopped out and screamed, I said, 'is there people in that vehicle?' and they all just had huge eyes and I knew there was, so I went around the vehicle and couldn't really see or get to anybody. There wasn't a door that would open, it was completely closed off but I tried to yell inside the vehicle and I could hear a small voice or voices, I thought there were kids inside, I understood there were people in there and that the car was on fire and they were trapped and I just knew how serious it was," he said.
Szakaly initially tried putting the fire out with a fire extinguisher he had in the back of his truck, but that didn't work properly so he called Abe Schroeder who was a kilometre away to bring their fire extinguisher immediately. The car rolled into a ditch that was right beside some farmland Szakaly worked for several years, so he knew that they just disked the land so dirt was available.
"There was loose black dirt right close to the car, and I just knew to start hauling dirt and try to snuff out this fire, we were throwing it on the engine. There was fuel leaking supplying the fire... at this point in time there were passerbys and they saw what I was doing and joined in, so we had a little circle of people running and throwing dirt on this fire, and we got it out several times and then it would just go and light back up. It seemed like a long time, but it must have only been a minute or two."
Szakaly, other passerbys like Brookelyn Patterson and a man she was with, and other community members joined and kept working hard until the Schroeder showed up, and he was able to put the fire out for good. However, the car was still upside down and it was at this point Szakaly learned there was a lady trapped inside, and nobody at the time had the means to get her out.
"Once we got the fire out I was able to find her, she was upside down in the driver's seat and I was able to lay on the ground and talk to her through a little hole. She was obviously very scared, panicked and she reached an arm down to me and said 'help me get me out of here,' and I said 'we are doing everything we can,' and I reached up and was able to hold her hand."
Saying "I could not leave until I saw her out of the vehicle," Szakaly stayed on scene and watched as fire crews were able to safely remove the lady.
Springing into action when faced with a burning vehicle could've been very dangerous for Szakaly and the others who helped, but for Szakaly he said that wasn't even a thought in his mind at the time.
"I was afraid I was going to watch this person or people burn to death on the side of the road and be standing there helpless. I knew that the fire, you got to get it now before it gets out of control."
Reflecting on the situation, Szakaly said it felt like a miracle how everything came together to save the woman's life. He remarked that he didn't even know why he was going into Langdon to begin with, and Schroeder was planning on leaving his house an hour earlier, but happened to be late, thus making him available to put the fire out. On top of that, the accident occurred at a piece of farmland Szakaly himself just disked, which made the dirt to put out the fire available.
"It was one of those weird things where we don't know why it worked out, but we're sure glad it worked out, because that could have been horrible."
Szakaly has not contacted the woman since the incident, as he doesn't know who she is, but hopes she's able to make a full recovery and would like to get in contact with her if that would be possible. Szakaly added he is very grateful to the other community members who jumped in to help him put the fire out, and that he also has a newfound appreciation for emergency crews, as he saw firsthand how stressful those life-or-death situations can be.
"At the end of the day, there's just somebody there that needed help. And where I come from, we help those in need, that's just the way we do it around here."
Szakaly's actions have resulted in an incredible showing of gratitude and praise on various social media pages, with one commenter saying Szakaly has always been a positive community influence and that this isn't his first time rushing into danger, as the commenter said they saw Szakaly also help with a housefire before. Others said they hope more community members take inspiration from this act to help each other when we can.
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