COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – An SUV crashed into a tree and caught fire Tuesday night in Colorado Springs after the teenage driver got distracted by a miller moth.
The fiery crash happened at about 8:30 p.m. on the 7800 block of Lexington Drive. The 18-year-old woman was driving a GMC Denali and lost control after she says a miller moth started flying around in front of her.
The SUV went off the road and smashed into a tree. Police said the impact of the crash severed a fuel line and gas began pouring out.
A couple in another car passing by stopped and pulled the woman from the driver’s door window just before the SUV went up in flames.
Good Samaritan Brittany Rael said she saw the gas and knew she had to act fast.
“I just felt like, ‘We’re running out of time,’ ” Rael said.
Rael and Byron Weatherby said they almost stayed home but decided to head out to run an errand.
“We just happened to be in the right time at the right place,” Weatherby said. “It just looked like she made a right turn right into the tree.”
Weatherby called 911 while Rael ran to the car and pulled the teen out of the driver’s side window that was only half open.
“She was scared, she was bleeding,” Rael said. “I tried to open the door and it was stuck; the door was bent. I started smelling gasoline and got this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I told her, ‘Stand up.’ And she stood up on the seat. I got up on the car, reached in and I hooked my arm into her armpits and I pulled her out of the window.
“About five seconds later we headed back to the car and I heard a cracking noise and the whole neighborhood lit up. I turned around and I just saw this fireball and it was streaking down the street … everywhere the gasoline was there was fire.”
The couple could have kept driving past the crash as others did, but despite hesitations in both of their minds, they stopped.
“Her parents came over and thanked me. They were so sweet,” Rael said.
“They said, ‘You guys are her guardian angels,’ ” Weatherby said.
The teen only had minor injuries and wasn’t hospitalized.
Police said drugs and alcohol weren’t factors in the crash.
The Colorado State Extension office says miller moths are the informal name for the adult stage of the army cutworm moth. The moths’ six to eight week migration happens every year along the Front Range, but it usually doesn’t begin until mid-May. Due to the warm weather this spring the bugs have arrived early.
CSU describes the animals as nuisance pests.