SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) — A Utah motorcyclist who was pinned under a burning car after a collision expressed his gratitude Tuesday for the help of strangers who lifted the 4,000 pound vehicle to rescue him.
"I'm just very thankful for everyone that helped me out," Brandon Wright told The Associated Press by telephone from his hospital bed. "They saved my life."
Authorities said Wright, 21, was riding his motorcycle Monday near the Utah State University campus in Logan when he collided with a black BMW that was pulling out of a parking lot.
Tire and skid marks on the highway indicate that Wright laid the bike down and slid along the road before colliding with the car, Assistant Police Chief Jeff Curtis said.
The bike hit the car's hood and bounced to the ground, while Wright, who was not wearing helmet, slid under the car and then both vehicles burst into flames, Curtis said.
Wright was trapped beneath the burning car. A group of about 10 men and women rushed to help, tilting the car up to free him and pull him to safety.
"Every one of those people put their lives in danger," Curtis said. "Those people are heroes. You can only speculate what the outcome would have been if they had lifted that car and waited for the emergency service personnel to get up there."
Construction workers from a campus building project also grabbed fire extinguishers to try and put out the flames.
Chris Garff, a media production specialist for the university, caught the rescue on video. The 31-year-old was on the 9th floor of a university building shooting a promotional video for the school when he looked out of the window and saw black smoke billowing from the road.
"I turned the camera toward it and started to record," said Garff, adding that Wright's motorcycle was engulfed in flames. "It was a remarkable thing to see 10 to 12 people lift that car and pull him out."
The video show a crowd gathering around the burning car and motorcycle as flames shoot into the air. Some of the rescuers are wearing construction helmets and safety vests, others sport school backpacks and at least one police officer is in the crowd.
Quickly the group places their hands on the car and starts to rock it until it tilts up on its side.
Once the car is on its wheels, a construction worker in a hardhat and a lime green t-shirt can be seen dragging a spread-eagled Wright from under the car. Two officers then move in with fire extinguisher and, moments later, paramedics start to provide Wright with medical care.
On Tuesday, Intermountain Medical Center spokesman Jess Gomez said Wright was expected to be moved from intensive care to a regular room at the Murray hospital and upgraded to satisfactory condition.
"Brandon is doing pretty well, very well considering what happened," Wright's uncle Tyler Riggs said during a news conference Tuesday. "He's going to make it out of this fine with some recovery."
Despite not wearing a helmet, Riggs said Wright had suffered no head trauma in the accident. Wright does have two broken legs, a broken pelvis, road rash, burns on his left foot and abrasions to his forehead.
Riggs said Wright, who was headed to study at a university computer lab, tried to protect himself by laying his bike down before the collision. Riggs also said Wright remembers some details from the crash and told the family he felt scared and could see and feel the flames.
"He remembers being under the car, spitting up blood and not being able to talk," Riggs said.
Riggs said Wright has not seen the video of his rescue. The family, he said is grateful to the "angels who came to his aid."
"They risked their lives doing it," he said. It restores your faith in humanity."
The driver of the BMW, whom Curtis believes was among the group that helped lift the car, suffered only minor injuries. He's been identified as John Johnson, the head of USU's Department of Management Information Systems in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.
Johnson did not respond to email and phone messages from The AP on Tuesday.
Curtis said he didn't know whether any citations would be issued or charges filed.
Associated Press writer Brian Skoloff contributed to this report.