Tree Saves Condo, Residents From Fiery Crash

By Melissa Garcia

LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4)– A tree likely saved dozens of residents from a fiery crash when a semi slammed into it, bursting into flames late Thursday night.

Residents of the Park Bellevue Condominiums heard a book and felt the building shake around 11:35 p.m. Thursday.

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(credit: CBS)

“I heard like a spark, and then an explosion,” said Erin Slater, who lives on the top level. “And that’s when the fire started.”

She and her neighbors evacuated the condos and saw the flames once they got outside.

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Erin Slater (credit: CBS)

“The tree right here and the cab of the truck, (there were) just flames coming up. Flames and smoke,” Slater told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia. “I was just really freaking out, because I thought the whole building was going to go up (in flames). And honestly, I was scared because I couldn’t find my cat.”

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(credit: CBS)

The semi, a carrier hauling three cars, crashed against the large tree just outside the complex. The semi also smashed into three parked cars in its path.

“I heard a lot of screeching, and metal grinding with concrete,” said Ryan Beach, whose car was totalled.

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(credit: CBS)

He said that the semi driver bailed out of the truck before it crashed and burned.

“He actually did jump out and rolled, but he wasn’t seriously injured,” Beach said.

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(credit: Ryan Beach)

Beach shot video on his cell phone showing flames from the burning cab and tree shooting above the five story building.

“I’m happy to hear that the driver got out, because I don’t think he would have survived that,” Slater said.

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(credit: CBS)

Firefighters doused the blaze and knocked down unit doors making sure that all residents got out safely.

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(credit: CBS)

“Extremely close,” Beach said. “It couldn’t have been any closer. If that tree wasn’t there, I’m sure there would have been some injuries and the building for sure would have burned down then.”

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(credit: CBS)

There was no word from police on whether the driver would face any charges.

Melissa Garcia has been reporting for CBS4 News since March 2014. Find her bio here, follow her on Twitter @MelissaGarciaTV, or send your story idea to mkgarcia@cbs.com.

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