In the event of an automobile accident, you’d certainly hope that the first people on the scene are professionals. But outside of those with training in disaster response and medical capacities, it appears the next best person might actually be a vehicle designer.
Last weekend, the head of design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ralph Gilles, was driving home with his wife Doris in Addison Township, Michigan, when they came upon the scene of a collision between a Ford Edge and a Ford Fiesta. The scene was dramatic: it was dark and the roads were snow covered. The driver of the Edge has lost control of his vehicle and crossed the center line, hitting the Fiesta head-on and trapping its two occupants inside.
While his wife called 911, Gilles and the Edge’s driver unsuccessfully tried to help the Fiesta’s occupants out when, moments later, a woman driving a Buick LeSabre failed to observe the scene and plowed into the vehicles, which caused the Fiesta to ram into the Edge, resulting in the Edge’s engine bursting into flames.
In a split second, Gilles made the decision to use his Jeep Wrangler, equipped with a bumper, to ram into the burning Ford Edge to push it away from the Fiesta and its trapped occupants. The fire chief whose crew responded to the scene called him heroic, and said that Gilles actions kept the incident from becoming much worse.
Gilles says he still has no idea where the thought came from when he decided to use his Jeep as a car pusher, but it probably doesn’t hurt that he spends his days thinking about vehicle design, capability and utility.