Father, daughter pulled from car fire
by Bradley Hartsell
A Sharpsburg man is being called a hero after helping save two lives Sunday, pulling out a father and daughter from their car after it struck an SUV and erupted into flames.
The accident took place around 7 p.m. Sunday when two vehicles, a Porsche and a Lexus RX330, collided head-on. According to authorities with the Georgia State Patrol, the driver of the Lexus sport utility vehicle, Rhonda Lea Loggins, was turning left from Highway 34 East into the NCG Cinemas on Fischer Crossing Boulevard and drove into the path of the Porsche, which was heading west on Highway 34. The Porsche struck the Lexus SUV in the right front, and the Porsche immediately caught on fire.
Another driver in the area, Mike Burgess, had picked up his daughter from church and was in the turn lane when he heard the sound of a car horn. Burgess said he saw the crash, then pulled his car over and rushed to the Porsche.
Burgess pulled out the severely injured driver, Timothy Brian Williams, whose leg was mangled and who was spitting up blood, Burgess said.
“I asked him if anyone else was in their car,” recalled Burgess. “He said, ‘My daughter.’ I rushed to the other side but I couldn’t get the door open.”
Burgess says he ran around to the driver’s side and began tugging at Timberly Williams, 22, who was unresponsive, but she was buckled in and the smoke had obstructed all visibility.
“The car was so filled with smoke, I couldn’t hardly see her,” he said. “I started to get in panic mode. I had to make a decision: if I had to let her go so my daughter didn’t have to see me go. But I just kept telling myself I couldn’t leave her.”
Burgess made several attempts to rescue Timberly Williams, having to pull out for clean air before trying again. He says bystanders were yelling at him to get away from the car before it blew up. He yelled back that someone else was in the car, and tried again. He says, at that moment, the smoke parted just enough for him to find the seat belt. When he unhooked Williams, she “fell into” his arms, and he pulled her out.
Burgess said that just as he had moved both victims a safe distance from the car, the car became fully engulfed in flames.
“If I hadn’t had gotten her that time, I don’t think she would have lasted too much longer from the smoke,” he said.
At 7:17 p.m., the Coweta County Fire Department arrived. Burgess said a couple of off-duty EMTs arrived after the two victims were rescued and took over from that point.
Loggins was charged with failing to yield by turning left, according to the Georgia State Patrol. She and a 12-year-old passenger were both uninjured.
Timothy Williams was flown to Atlanta Medical Center and Timberly was transported by ambulance to Grady Memorial Hospital, according to Deputy Chief Todd Moore of the Coweta County Fire Department.
“His actions saved these people’s lives,” Moore said of Burgess. “Without his actions, neither the father or daughter would have survived. He fought through the smoke and flames to save a complete stranger and we want to recognize his heroic actions.”
On Monday morning, Burgess called his sister, Teresa Burgess, to tell her what happened.
“He was very emotional telling me over the phone and he broke down several times and had to compose himself to keep talking about it,” Teresa said of her brother.
“One of the on-site officers said, ‘You know, I’ve been over in Afghanistan and Iraq and that was pretty heroic stuff,’” she added. “He’s awesome, I told him, ‘You’re a hero.’ I know my brother, he’s one of those do what’s right kind of guys.”
Burgess wasn’t supposed to be in the area, he says. His 17-year-old daughter needed a ride from church on short notice when her ride cancelled.
“I’m glad I was there, especially since I wasn’t really supposed to be,” he said. “Me being a dad, I just did what any other dad would have done,” he added.
“Through the smoke I could see her face. There were flames at her feet and she was just out of it. That’s what’s been staying with me for the last few hours.”
“I told my wife last night, if I couldn’t have gotten her, I think it would have scarred me,” he added. “I think the good Lord was with me that the smoke cleared at the right moment.”
Burgess recalls looking at his own daughter still in their car, thinking how close the father he pulled from the wreck came to losing his daughter.
“I just kind of broke down a little bit, staring back across the road at my daughter. The whole dad thing. I’m hoping they’re doing okay,” Burgess said. “I’ve never had anything like that happen before. You don’t think about what you’re doing, you just do it.”