Des Moines Family’s Car Catches Fire, Lives Saved by Passing Car Who Notified Them

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WAUKEE, Iowa -- It was a frightening scene for a Des Moines family on Wednesday as they were stranded on the side of Interstate 80 after their vehicle burst into flames.

The fire shut down the interstate between Waukee and Van Meter for nearly 20 minutes but luckily everyone managed to get away from the car safely.

The doubt of survival was initially very real.

“I thought we would blow up in it,” Amy Whitney said. “I didn`t really know.”

Whitney, her two nieces, and dog Sox had recently left Creston and were heading home to Des Moines when their van began to break down along I-80 and a passing vehicle alerted them that their car was on fire.

“I slammed the car in park, got my dog out, my two nieces out and tried to get as far away as I could," Whitney said.

The escape remains etched into their memory.

“I was watching, I saw the tires explode and all I saw at first were sparks going off and gas leaking,” Emily Mathis said.

“Everything I had was in flames,” Whitney said.

However, another memory burned deeper.

“When it was on fire no one would stop,” Whitney said. “Everybody was going by and they were just looking at it.”

Amy is thankful one vehicle strayed from the pack.

“That one truck, two ladies risked their own lives to help us out,” Whitney said. “They could have said ‘forget it, we aren’t going to help them’ and let us just blow up in the van too.”

Two strangers, whose names remain unknown to Amy, helped them save what matters most.

“All of our other stuff is replaceable but life isn’t replaceable,” Whitney said. “I really want to thank you whoever it was to tell us it was on fire.”

The Waukee Fire Department along with Van Meter police responded to the fire.

The exact cause remains under investigation.

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