Minnesota Now with Cathy Wurzer

Thank You, Stranger: A MnDOT employee recalls a fiery rescue from I-94

A car in flames
On April 18 a car on I-94 in St. Paul was engulfed in flames.
Screenshot via video

Dave Klepaida was one of the good Samaritans who came to the rescue of Sam Orbovich after his car started on fire during an accident on I-94 in St. Paul.

MPR News Minnesota Now producer Ellen Finn spoke with him for our “Thank You, Stranger” segment, a featured dedicated to those we do not know who make our day.

Klepaida was driving his truck on its normal route on the evening of April 18 when he saw a car fire. He approached it, and noticed a handful of people were trying to pry the door open. That led him to believe someone was stuck inside.

Orbovich had veered off the road and hit a pole. The driver side door was wedged against a freeway guardrail and he was trapped inside, unconscious. Quickly, the entire vehicle was engulfed in flames.

People were hitting the window trying to break it open to rescue Orbovich. But, Klepaida knew they would not be successful.

“People were using a fire extinguisher to try to break the window, but I knew that is not going to break the window, a car window will not break,” he said. “You can hit it with a hammer, but it is meant to take impact.”

Klepaida said there wasn’t really time to think as the flames were rising, but then it came to him — he needed a tool in his truck.

He always carries “the window punch” with him. It is a simple tool that shatters the window. Klepaida quickly broke the car window and helped pull out Orbovich.

“We were at the right place at the right time,” he said.

Klepaida says he wasn’t prepared for how much attention the incident would get. The crash was recorded on a dashcam by Kadir Tolla and soon went viral.

But he says despite the attention, it was just another day at MnDOT.

“I’m just gonna get right back on my truck and go do my job,” he said.

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