An Ada man is being hailed a hero after risking his life to pull an injured man out of a burning car in the early morning hours Wednesday on state Highway 3E just outside of Ada.
Dan Tiger was at home with his wife, Amie, in May’s RV Park around 2 a.m. Wednesday when the couple said they heard a loud “boom” on the highway outside of the park. They said Wednesday they initially had no idea what the sound was, but when they looked outside and saw flames they new something was wrong.
“We assumed there was going to be people who were hurt there, so my wife insisted we go,” Dan said. “We didn’t realize it was a car wreck until we drove up on it.”
What the Tiger’s encountered was the aftermath of a two-vehicle, head-on collision on state Highway 3E near County Road 1600, about 2.5 miles southeast of Ada. Amie began recording the incident with her cellphone as Dan approached a vehicle, the front of which was fully engulfed in flames. The video vividly captures the fear, concern and adrenaline rush that followed their arrival and the subsequent discovery that Nathan Nolen, 44, of Ada, was still alive and trapped inside the burning vehicle.
“When we walked up on the crash there were three teenagers standing there,” Amie said. “They stopped to help and there was a young man about 17 years-old. He had tried to get the man out but he couldn’t get the door open. He burned his hand trying.”
Amie can be heard on the video first fearfully shouting at Dan not to approach the car, then abruptly switching gears when it became apparent that Dan was going to try to rescue Nolen, shouting, “Get him out Danny! Get him out!”
The rescue took only a few tense moments, but they were moments Dan will never forget.
“I was looking to see if anybody was alive, and when I (saw) he was alive I knew we couldn’t leave him like that, because the vehicle was on fire,” Dan said. “He told me, ‘Don’t leave me here. I don’t want to die like this!’”
Dan can be seen on the video grabbing a hold of the mangled door and literally forcing it further open, then grabbing Nolen and dragging him out of the burning vehicle, pulling him across the roadway to safety.
“I’m still really stunned from it, because you don’t expect to just do something like that,” Dan said. “Mostly I just kept trying to get him as far away from it as possible. I feel really blessed, like I was right where I was supposed to be.”
Nolen was airlifted by AirEvac Lifeteam 26 to the University of Oklahoma Medical Center in Oklahoma City, where he was admitted in stable condition with leg injuries.
‘They saved my daddy’s life’
Dan is not the only person who believes he was right where he was supposed to be at that moment.
Nineteen-year-old Kendra Nolen, of Augusta, Kansas, said her father is only alive today because Dan saved him.
According to Kendra, her father was in an accident with a semi in 2011 that left him virtually unable to use his left arm and with significant impairment in his left leg. Nolen can be seen in the video wearing a brace on his left arm as Dan drags him from the burning wreckage.
“He almost died (back in 2011) and he’s permanently disabled,” Kendra said of her father. “He couldn’t have gotten himself out (of the burning car). He couldn’t have done it by himself.
“(Dan) saved my daddy’s life!”
Watching the video of her father’s rescue brought Kendra to tears.
“I just bawled watching that because there is a good chance that he wouldn’t have made it if Dan hadn’t have been there,” she said.
Nolen was undergoing surgery to repair a shattered left leg at an Oklahoma City Hospital at press time.
“His leg is shattered in a few places,” Kendra said. “But, he’s alive, so he’s good.”
Cause of collision under investigation
Oklahoma Highway Patrol reports indicate Nolen was traveling eastbound on SH3E when the 2011 Dodge pickup he was driving crossed the center line and struck a 2010 Chrysler driven Deborah Smithee, 49, of Stonewall. Smithee and another passenger in the Chrysler, Charles Coffman, 49, of Tupelo, both died at the scene of the collision.
A second passenger in the Chrysler, Tommy Hendley, 57, of Stonewall, was airlifted by AirEvac Lifeteam 26 to OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City, where he was admitted in critical condition with head and trunk internal injuries.
OHP reports indicate Nolen’s condition at the time of the collision and the cause of the collision remain under investigation.
Troopers report Nolen was wearing his seatbelt and the airbags in his vehicle deployed during the collision, but they were unable to determine whether seatbelts were in use or airbags deployed in the Chrysler.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol was assisted by the Pontotoc County Sheriff’s Office, Chickasaw Nation Lighthorse Police Department and Ada and Union Valley Fire departments.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the approximate time of the collision and contains additional information regarding the collision as reflected in Oklahoma Highway Patrol reports.