FCA Design Head Uses Jeep Wrangler to Intervene in Fiery Accident

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Last weekend, a drunk driver in a Ford Edge crossed into oncoming traffic in Addison Township, Michigan, and collided with a 2013 Ford Fiesta in the early hours of Sunday morning. At the same time Ralph Gilles, Fiat Chrysler’s Global Head of Design, was returning from an evening out with his wife and happened across the scene as the engine compartment of the Edge was beginning to catch fire.

With the occupants of the Fiesta trapped inside, Gilles decided to use his Jeep Wrangler push a burning SUV away from a wrecked hatchback — hoping to save them from a fiery death by keeping the flames from spreading to their vehicle. He explained that he had arrived just moments after the crash and had noticed the Edge driver had already exited the vehicle. Unfortunately, one of the two people in the Fiesta later passed away due to injuries sustained during the accident. But he may have saved the other by pushing the flaming SUV to the side of the road.

According to Deputy Jerry Yaldoo of the Addison Township sheriff’s Crash Reconstruction Unit, the Fiesta had actually been pushed away from the Edge during the initial head-on collision but was struck moments afterward by a 1997 Buick LeSabre. Gilles said he witnessed the second accident and how the hit with the Buick repositioned the car up against the Edge.

“We were the first [people] on the scene,” Gilles told the Oxford Leader. “It looked like it just happened based on the steam and the fact that the gentleman [driving the Edge] was clearly just getting out of his car.”

Initially, he and the drunk driver attempted to free the people trapped in the Fiesta as his wife contacted 911. Unable to do so, Gilles put a new plan into action as he noticed “tall flames coming from the SUV’s engine compartment.”

In the aftermath, he attributed the majority of his success to the vehicle he was in and not his own fast thinking to push the Edge out of the way. “I still have no idea where that [idea] came from,” Gilles told the reporter. “The only thing I can remember thinking [is] I’ve got a Jeep, it’s got a bumper on it, I think I can do this. All I could think about were the two people still inside the other car.”

“I figured the fire department would take a while to get there … at that time of day. I had to do something fast,” he continued. “I give the Jeep a lot of credit because had I been in my [Dodge] Challenger, I wouldn’t have had the traction to do it. Luckily, we had the Jeep that night. I put it in four-wheel drive and it worked perfectly.”

Addison Fire Chief Jerry Morawski called Gilles’ actions heroic. “I think the guy did a great job … it could have been worse [without him].”

However the FCA employee doesn’t think so. “Looking at the situation, there was no other option,” he said. “It’s important to stop (whenever there’s an accident). It’s kind of what you’re supposed to do. Every time I see something like that, I always at least inquire if they need help.”

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Caboose Caboose on Feb 26, 2018

    I kinda would love to see Gilles made FCA Chairman/CEO when The Sweater retires. Not because of this episode; but that doesn't hurt.

  • Ronnie Schreiber Ronnie Schreiber on Feb 26, 2018

    This doesn't surprise me at all. My impression has always been the Ralph Gilles is a stand up guy. He's always been gracious to me with his time at various press events and has been as open about stuff as his position allows. C'mon, the guy has a dog named 'Cuda, what's not to like?

  • Mike Some Evs are hitting their 3 year lease residual values in 6 months.
  • Tassos Jong-iL I am just here for the beer! (did I say it right?)
  • El scotto Tim, to be tactful I think a great many of us would like a transcript of TTAC's podcast. 90 minutes is just too long for most of us to listen. -evil El Scotto kicking in- The blog at best provides amusement, 90 minutes is just too much. Way too much.
  • TooManyCars VoGhost; I was referring more to the Canadian context, but the same graft is occurring in the US of A and Europe. Political affiliation appears to be irrelevant.
  • The Oracle Going to see a lot of corporations migrating out of Delaware as the state of incorporation. Musk sets trends, he doesn’t follow them.