FCA Design Head Uses Jeep Wrangler to Intervene in Fiery Accident

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
fca design head uses jeep wrangler to intervene in fiery accident

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]

Join the conversation
2 of 36 comments
  • 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?

  • NJRide Now more than ever, the US needs a brand selling cheaper cars. I know the old adage that a "good used car" is the best affordable transportation, but there has to be someone willing to challenge the $45k average gas crossover or $60k electric one that has priced out many working and middle class people from the market. So I think Mitsu actually may be onto something. Call me crazy but I think if they came up with a decent sedan in the Civic space but maybe for $19-20k as opposed to $25 they might get some traction there's still some people who prefer a sedan.However, I just compared a Trailblazer on Edmunds to an Outlander Sport. Virtually same size, the Trailblazer has heated seats, keyless ignition and satellite radio and better fuel economy for almost same price as the Mitsu. Plus a fresher body and a normal dealer network. This has always been the challenge off brands have had. Mitsu probably would have to come in $2-3k less than the Chevy unless they can finance more readily to the subprime crowd.
  • MaintenanceCosts At least on the US West Coast, Waze is perfectly happy to send cut-through drivers down residential streets or to disregard peak-hour turn or travel restrictions. I hope if it's going to be standard equipment the company starts taking a more responsible approach.
  • MaintenanceCosts I'm more curious about the effect (if any) on battery lifetime than range. Drawing current faster creates more heat and if that heat is not promptly drawn away it could affect life of the cells.I agree this sort of thing can make sense as a one-time option but is consumer-hostile as a subscription.
  • Ajla "The upgrade is permanent" 🤔Journos really should be calling out the automakers like Mercedes that are attempting to make this sort of thing subscription only because it obviously doesn't need to be."with a one-time price tag of $1,195"This also shows the poor consumer "value" of Mercedes wanting $1200 per year for a 60hp jump on the EQE350.
  • Dukeisduke Will the next owner have to pay up, too, like with Tesla? What's the starting price of the Polestar 2? I saw a clean used one listed locally the other day, and it was under $50k. I wasn't sure if that was a deal or not.