A group of Music Row power brokers helped yank 10 people from their cars and trucks Aug. 4, 2017, just before fire raced through the scene of a crash in southern Illinois.
Karen Grigsby / The Tennessean
A group of music-industry executives helped yank 10 people from their cars just before fire raced through the scene of a multi-vehicle crash on I-24 in southern Illinois.
A semi-truck had plowed full speed into cars that had stopped for construction on the highway near its junction with Interstate 57, causing a chain-reaction eight-car pileup shortly after noon CT Friday.
“There’s gas leaking everywhere, and diesel leaking everywhere,” said Marc Oswald, co-owner of Fontanel and Oswald Entertainment Group in Nashville. “I knew it was going to blow up. That’s 100%.
“It just hadn’t blown up yet, he said. “It smelled like acid and black smoke.”
Just in front of that pileup: A 10-person crew riding bikes from Nashville to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.
“I can’t get the sound out of my head. An 18-wheeler that just plowed into these people,” said Frank Wing, vice president of APA talent agency. “I saw all this debris going everywhere.”
“It’s like, boom! Like a bomb. As loud a boom as you can imagine,” said Greg Oswald, co-head of the Nashville office of the William Morris Endeavor talent agency. “You can see a car going straight up into the air.”
The Oswald brothers, who were paramedics for 10 years in San Diego, got in touch with 911 operators and immediately began organizing bystanders.
“People are screaming everywhere,” Marc Oswald. “It looked like a war zone.”
But the amateur rescuers went quickly vehicle by vehicle pulling victims to safety: First, a family of six with children ages 6 to 11; then, a couple of guys in a pick-up truck, one with a bad head wound; finally, a woman, screaming, stuck in a car that looked like a crushed beer can.
The Nashvillians couldn’t get her out of the car, so they got about 10 guys together and dragged the entire car, 3 feet at a time, across the highway into a grass median away from the fire.
And they did so just before flames ripped through three vehicles that already had been emptied of passengers.
“It’s boiling. It was a big hot fire,” Greg Oswald said.
Making things more intense: Rescuers kept hearing popping sounds, which they later found out were bullets exploding. One of the motorists had extra ammo for a handgun inside his vehicle.
Emergency vehicles arrived about 10 minutes after the crash.
“It was a trip. I’m still tripped out by it,” Wing said. “For me, I was pretty amped up. There’s no doubt, had we not sprung into action like we did, there would’ve been fatalities.”
Marc Oswald is grateful.
“The fact that nobody died is a miracle,” he said.
Follow Brad Schmitt on Twitter: @bradschmitt
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