New Mom Helps Rescue Man on Fire -- On Her Way Home From the NICU

Holly McNally
WTHR; RTV6/YouTube

Most women aren't prepared to do much of anything in the first few days after giving birth. And who could blame them? You're sore, you're tired, and your body (and mind) is still adjusting to the fact that you just gave birth to a tiny human the size of a watermelon. But when Holly McNally saw a person in need on Thursday afternoon, it didn't matter that she had just given birth just four days prior. In fact, she didn't even think twice; within seconds, she leapt out of her car and ran to the rescue of a man who was literally on fire.

  • The new mom was traveling home from the NICU with her mother when she came upon the accident scene.

    Right before her, clear as day, she could see a man running down the exit ramp of Interstate 70 in Indianapolis, consumed by flames.

    As she recently told USA Today, something inside her took over.

    “I guess mom- and gut-instinct,” she said. “If that were my child or my husband or my family member, I would want somebody to run up if they could.”

    And so, she did.

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  • That's not to say she wasn't scared -- the accident scene was a terrifying one, McNally later recalled to WTHR.

    Behind the man on fire, the 35-year-old Indiana mother could clearly see a semi-truck and its trailer overturned and engulfed by fire.

    "We see a plume of smoke, huge smoke," she told the station. "Like it looked like a warehouse on fire."

    "I saw the actual semi on fire and then looked to the front of the semi and then I see a man on fire, like his head was burning," she recalled. "I told my mom, 'I'm stopping and I'm going over there.' and she's like, 'No you're not.' I was like, 'I am.'"

  • Just moments earlier, McNally had been visiting her son Connor in the NICU, but now she was springing into action.

    "I stopped and jumped the guardrail, ran down the big old ramp and back up the ramp to him," McNally recalled to WTHR. 

    When she caught up with him, she was met with a grisly sight. 

    "Only thing on this man's body were his boots, clothes were dripping off," she said. "There was nothing on him. Nothing."

  • The harrowing scene sounds like something ripped from the movies. And it was clear that if she didn't act fast, the man could be dead.

    But luckily, McNally wasn't the only person rushing to the truck driver's aid.

    Another driver, Mitch Navarre, 50, arrived just in time as well, and together the pair threw a coat over the truck driver to snuff out the flames.

  • Incredibly, the driver was still talking -- enough to tell his heroic rescuers what his name was and what had happened.

    The driver's name was Jeff, and he had been hauling jet fuel on his trailer when it overturned. 

    That information was all they needed to know that it was time to run -- and fast.

    "I was like, 'Oh my Gosh! We have to go now," McNally recalled. "I was on Jeff's left side, the other guy was on his right and we're trying to carry him down."

    But even as they ran, flames igniting the spilled jet fuel weren't far behind. 

    "It was getting closer and closer," she said of the approaching fire.

  • Just seconds later, the tanker exploded.

    "If we would not have moved and gotten out of that area, we all would have been gone," McNally shared. "Smoke was hitting us. There was a part of my brain, everybody's brain, where you think, 'When do I cut?' You know what I mean? 'When do I quit helping?' but that never hit me. I couldn't quit."

    And thank goodness she didn't. The truck driver, later identified as 59-year-old Jeffrey Dunham, was rushed to the hospital with severe burns, but is expected to survive.

  • Incredibly, this isn't the only heroic feat McNally has accomplished this week.

    After going into labor with her fourth baby Monday, McNally told WTHR, she gave birth virtually on her own in a hospital emergency room.

    "The doctor didn't make it in time and the ER doctor didn't make it in time," she explained, adding that a nurse was there to help.

    Still, the whole rescuing-a-man-while-running-from-an-exploding-tanker thing trumps giving birth with hardly any assistance on the intensity scale.

    "Besides delivering a baby. That was crazy, yes," she said.

  • In the end, McNally says it was a little voice inside her that said "What if that was my son?" that ultimately pushed her to help the truck driver.

    "I was like, 'What if that's my son? What if that were Connor when he's 30?" the mom shared.

    Still, her fellow good samaritan, Mitch Navarre, later spoke with reporters for RTV6 and shared another part of the story he hopes others hear loud and clear.

    According to Navarre, he was happy to be in the right place at the right time along with McNally, but he noted that there were many other passersby who were with one noteworthy difference: Many had their phones out, recording the chaos instead of running to help.

    "The problem that I have with so many people who love technology so much [is that] somebody can be dying, and nobody is there to help them," he recalled. "As I was coming with my truck, I saw the man ... he was burning, and everybody was on their cellphone."

    Navarre said he immediately pulled over, jumped the guardrail, and ran to rescue the man from the flames. But he wasn't "just trying to be famous or be on TV," he insisted. 

    "This man was burning," he said, "this man was ... actually fried. But it hurt me so much ... the fact that nobody cares. We live in a country [where] nobody cares. It doesn't matter what you are, what race ... he's a white man, I'm a black man. But we all are human."

    "With love, we could do so much in this world," Navarre said.