MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The driver whose car burst into flames on Interstate 394 last week died as a result of severe burns Monday.
Nathanial Cornely, 22, of Bloomington, suffered severe burns all over his body and died as a result at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), police said.
The Minnesota State Patrol said Cornely’s car caught fire around 10 p.m. Thursday on eastbound Interstate 394 near Interstate 494 in Minnetonka, Minn.
Witnesses said Cornely was driving very fast, and flames were coming out of the back of his car.
Cornely ended up driving through the ditch, jumping a fence and flipping over. The whole car was on fire before it left the Interstate.
“He passed by us, and we noticed in the back window there were just flames everywhere, so I was like, ‘look at that guy’s window,’” said Jared Bekkala. He and his two buddies stopped on the Interstate and ran to help Cornely.
“We saw a car going by us really fast. It went through the ditch, jumped the fence, hit the road and flipped and he was on fire when he went by us on the freeway,” said Jacob Kaupilla, one of the rescuers. “We pulled over, jumped the fence and tried to open the door because he was burning on the inside. We could see him moving around and the door was locked, so I kicked the window in.”
Cornely was rushed to HCMC. He was in critical condition Friday afternoon.
The men who stopped to help Cornely took their shirts off and used them to put out the flames on the man. They also breathed in smoke, but are all OK.
“We got to the car and the whole thing was up in flames at that point. It took three of us to pull him out of there,” said Bekkala. “Everything was on fire on him, his shorts, his shirt, hair, everything. You hope the guy is alright, that’s all that matters. You hope he makes it.”
The State Patrol did not initially reveal Cornely’s identity because they were investigating him for earlier crimes. Bloomington Police said he was wanted for a domestic assault earlier Thursday night.
Investigators with the Hennepin County Crime Lab and the Minnetonka Fire Marshal are trying to determine why the man’s car was on fire before it crashed.