His hands sustained second- and third-degree burns, but Florida land surveyor Mike Gay said he isn't concerned about them. They will heal. "It's nothing compared to her," Gay said, "and I'd do it again."
Passer-by Mike Gay pulls screaming stranger out of a highway wreck.
By Jeremy Maready
Published: Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 11:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 11:26 p.m.
ALTURAS | Mike Gay didn't have to stop when he saw a burning tree in a rural Polk County field Wednesday night.
He didn't have to rush to the aid of a person he heard screaming inside a blazing car there.
And he didn't have to reach into the flames and pull out the 28-year-old woman inside.
But he did, and it saved Jodi Kathleen Oakes' life.
Gay was passing the scene of the accident at Eighty Foot Road and County Road 640 about 8 p.m.
"I thought it was just a tree burning," he said.
It's a common site along the rural highway. But curious, he turned his car around.
Gay talked to neighbors who had gathered at the scene, and they soon saw there was a car next to a large oak tree.
While another man was on the phone with 911 operators, Gay heard screaming coming from the vehicle.
"I ran to the car's passenger side," he said.
The door was jammed.
Oakes was in a panic and couldn't undo her seat belt.
He ran to her door.
But in just a few seconds, flames were shooting out.
He couldn't get to her.
Gay ran to the passenger side again and reached through the window.
By that time, the fire had burned through the seat belt, and Oakes grabbed his hands.
Her arms, her hair, her clothes were engulfed in flames, Gay said Thursday. And his hands quickly caught fire as well.