It sounded like two buildings had collided.
The banging, crashing noise was like a shotgun going off at close range, and it was enough to make three young people from Everett, all 2010 graduates of Everett High School (EHS), stop gassing up their car and totally shake them out of the norms of everyday life.
It was just after 2 a.m. last Sunday at Brown Circle in Revere when the two vehicles slammed into each other – in full view of the youths – and created that horrific noise described above.
But all three of the young adults – Brian Gabriel, Gislaine Marreiro and Michael LaRochelle (a former all-scholastic football player at EHS) – didn’t shrink back from the situation, they rushed into it.
“We were coming back from MIT and pumping gas at the gas station when all the sudden we saw two cars come into the rotary and we heard this awful booming sound,” said Gabriel, 20. “Cars were rolling over into the grassy area of the rotary and one caught on fire. My friend Mike and I just dropped everything and ran over to the scene.”
LaRochelle said instinct took over.
“That’s exactly what it was,” said LaRochelle, a 19-year-old student at Framingham State. “It was all reaction. We didn’t think about it, we just ran over there. We almost got hit going over there because we weren’t paying attention to traffic. We saw a guy in the front seat who was all bloody and we just grabbed him and dragged him to safety. There was no time to think about it. The car immediately went up in flames.”
Added Gabriel, “The guy we pulled out first was a big guy. He was over 250 pounds I’d say and I’m only 150 pound and Mike is about 170. I don’t know how we did it. I guess it was just the adrenaline.”
The man they had pulled out of the burning car was an older man named Wilson and he was suffering from numerous cuts and apparently had a concussion from the impact.
“I sat there with him after they brought him over,” said Marreiro, 18. “He asked to use my phone so he could call his wife. I just kept talking to him and trying to keep him conscious. It was actually very horrific.”
Still the only ones at the scene, the young Everett residents observed that the second car had severe damage, but wasn’t on fire. It appeared the driver of that car was okay.
Within minutes, Revere Police Officers Louis LaRosa and Angel Lopez arrived on the scene and began to coordinate the operations.
Several witnesses also stopped their vehicles in the circle to watch the growing car fire – whose flames appeared to be towering up 10 feet or more.
Then the situation took an unpredictable and scary turn.
The car that was burning mightily had been thought to be empty, but it was not.
Soon, everyone realized that there was another man in the driver’s seat – and he was completely engulfed in the fire.
“The guy was in the car with the fire around him for five minutes and someone finally spotted him,” said LaRochelle. “He was on fire and had moved and someone saw him and yelled. Immediately some 10 or 15 people ran over. At that point the flames were like 10-15 feet high.”
Said Gabriel, “I thought he was dead. At first, we were all pretty much figuring the guy was dead until he started moving.”
Everett resident Scott Burton was one of the men who charged to the burning car once the trapped man was spotted.
Burton had been headed to IHOP with a friend, but had discovered the restaurant to be too busy. As they left, he saw some commotion at the circle and went to check it out.
For Burton, it was like going from the frying pan to the fire – literally.
When he arrived, he said that Officers LaRosa and Lopez were desperately trying to get to the trapped young man by whatever means possible.
In the Police Report, the officers wrote that 10-15 people were screaming obscenities and in anguish as they watched the guy burning in the car.
Officer LaRosa tried to reach inside and grab the victim, but the fire was too hot.
The car was completely mangled and the doors wouldn’t open, so LaRosa and Lopez found some fire extinguishers and attempted to put out the blaze.
Burton said he jumped into the scene when officers were using the fire extinguishers.
“The extinguishers weren’t very useful,” said Burton. “I couldn’t see an inch in front of me, but I was trying to help. The extinguisher put out the fire for about five seconds and then it would start again and get bigger. I thought the kid was going to be burned alive. I thought, ‘What do we do to keep him from dying?’ One of the officers at that point was just able to grab the kid from the shoulders and lift him up over the seat. I was next to the officer and I grabbed the kid and we pulled him out the rear window. I remember looking at his skin when he came out. It was so white and pale and his clothes were all falling off because they had been burnt. I also noticed there wasn’t a lot of hair left on the kid’s head. I was just hoping he was alright.”
Approximately 10 other people – including the Everett youths – were able to help pull the man to safety from a rear window – the only area of the car not engulfed in flames.
Miraculously, the man survived the incident with only burns to his face, according to police.
“I have several reports that the responding initial officers Louis LaRosa
and Angel Lopez, in conjunction with several civilians at the scene, were directly responsible for saving the life of a male motorist trapped in the SUV that was struck, (T boned), in the traffic circle,” said Revere Police Capt. Michael Murphy. “The victim suffered burns, as the result of the vehicle igniting, post collision. Had the officers and civilians not continued their rescue efforts in spite of flames driving them back, the young man would have, minimally, suffered much more serious injuries and may have been killed.”
Murphy said that Revere Police are investigating the accident right now to determine if alcohol or drugs played any part in it. They said it is likely that excessive speed, at least, was a factor.
For Burton and the Everett youths, it was a short experience, but one they won’t likely forget anytime soon.
“It was the scariest thing ever – just pure adrenaline for like 10 minutes and then it was over,” said Gabriel.
Said Marreiro, “It was the first time I’ve ever experienced something like that and it was horrible. Frankly, we all thought that we were going to see that kid die right there and not be able to get to him.”
Burton – a 36-year-old father of three kids – said it was something that put life into perspective.
“Everyone was psyched when we got him out and a lot of people pulled over and tried to help,” he said. “It makes you think that the world’s not a totally bad and selfish place. It was just a horrible scene, especially being a father. When it involves kids and flames, cars and people trapped inside with only two cops and you – there’s a great amount of fear involved. There was a lot of panic there. I feel much better knowing everything turned out okay.”