MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A driver is in the hospital with severe burns after his car caught fire Thursday night.

The Minnesota State Patrol said it happened around 10 p.m. on eastbound Interstate 394 near Interstate 494 in Minnetonka.

Witnesses said the man was driving very fast by them and flames were coming out of the back of his car.

The man 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 the man.

“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.”

The driver was rushed to Hennepin County Medical Center.  He was in critical condition Friday afternoon with burns on most of his body.  The men who stopped to help took their shirts off and used it 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 won’t say who the man is because Minneapolis and Bloomington Police Departments are 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.

Comments (39)
  1. Fed Up says:

    Wow, must have been crazy to watch something like that! It’s great to still see that people wll put themselves in danger to help out another. Great job to the three that witnessed and took action to try to save the drivers life.

    1. Clint Make My Day says says:

      aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah – let’s see what holds up for facts. This ‘cco board is known for 99% bullchit postings. stay tunes

  2. Melissa says:

    I was there. My husband was helping get out the fire too. It was and is the saddest thing I have ever witnessed. I will be going to the hospital and checking in on the victim. I have never seen anything so horrific and my heart is with him and his family. Complete desperation. So sad.

    1. Ven says:

      Thanks to your husband and others who helped. Prayers for you all and the victim.

      1. A friend of the victim says:

        Thank you to your husband as well! I, as his friend, as well as his family truly appreciate what they did that night.

  3. Melissa says:

    It was horrific. There was a total of 4 people trying to get the flames off of the victim. I didn’t even realize it was man under all the flames because they were so high. He was reaching in desperation to everyone helping. I’m crying as I am typing this….. I seriously will not look at things the same. It would have to be hard to be an officer and deal with this on a daily basis. I hope he survives because there was a purpose people were on hand to rush him out. He has burns over 90 percent of his body and they don’t know ifbhe will survive. If he does it will be a hard road. Prayers and more prayers.

  4. sad says:


    Did the driver not know the car was on fire? I mean, couldn’t he smell it?
    If it was that engulfed in flames…

    BTW – the writing on this story is AWFUL with it’s puncutations – who writes this bad?

    1. Reasonable says:

      Who writes this poorly would be correct.

      Having been in a car fire myself, I can tell you that you typically don’t know until it is too late. If it’s in the engine, there’s so much combustion going on that it’s practically instant. There’s so much panic and confusion that your first reaction isn’t even to slam and the brakes and get out as fast as possible. If it’s in the rear/trunk area of the car, half the time you won’t notice until the car is full of smoke at which point you’re again in panic and confusion mode.

      In the end though, it is truly remarkable that people came to the driver’s aid. In this day and age it’s good to see that there are still decent people out there.

  5. PJ says:

    What a horrible thing to see. God bless your husband for his courage. He has to be traumatized by what he saw as well.

  6. another question says:

    Does anyone know what kind of car it was?

    Just asking for future reference when deciding on what kind of vehicle to purchase. I wonder really how it happened? Why he didn’t just stop the car and get out?


    1. Gardoglee says:

      Thank you to all the people who stopped to help. You did the right thing even at risk to yourself. You are heros.

      Actually it does not matter much what brand or model of car. I have been in two cars which started on fire, my daughter in a third and I have stopped to help put out two others on the road. Fortunately no one was injured in any of those fires. However, there are so many things which can set a car on fire that it happens much more often than you would think. I have been told by a trooper that one of the most common causes is flammable windshield washer fluid from a leaking tank or hose, often after a minor accident. Many things on a car get very hot, like catalytic converters which can get grass caught on them, or all sorts of electrical things under the hood, or flammable liquids or solids falling onto an exhaust manifold. Even a bad wheel bearing can set a car on fire. And as others have said, you don’t always notice right away. It takes a reamrkably short time for a fire to spread from a trunk or hood into the body compartment.

      Let’s all hope for the best possible recovery for the victim.

    2. Kyle says:

      Fires occur – make and model irrelevant. From wiring to over heating to a cigarette that went astray … things happen.
      Been there and done that myself in a car years ago. You don’t know what to do, you may not be aware until it’s to late, you may be trying to find a place to pull over, you may know a pond or ditch is ahead and be racing to it to dunk the car …. it’s a whirlwind in your mind.
      Very proud of the rescuers – GREAT JOB !
      He has a chance only because of you all – prayers go out to him and his family and a toast to those who assisted him and saved his life!

      1. gotta know says:

        Have any of those ever been Infiniti’s?
        Just checkin.

        1. Eliz says:

          The model of car does not matter. The car itself was not the cause of the fire. This is a total tragedy and please just pray that he is in a better place.

  7. sue says:

    My heart goes out to the burn victim. But I have to say that the reason for my post is to ask, is the writer of this article an actual paid reporter? Horribly written top to bottom. “…lost their shirts in the fire.” Is she making a joke or is she just incredibly ignorant?

    1. em0886 says:

      hahaha!! I agree…who cares about their shirts?! It was pretty obvious that since they were helping put out the fire with their shirts that they would’ve not been able to wear them again! Who hired this person?? You should be fired in addition to her.

      1. Say what says:

        em0886 = moron.

        People involved in Rescue = Heros !

  8. T. says:

    “The men who stopped to help all lost their shirts”??? Really? Sorry to everyone involved, but this “journalist” needs to go back to school.

  9. Fed Up says:

    The guys who stopped used their shirts to try and put out the fire, and the shirts were completly burned up, hence they “lost their shirts”

  10. Elle says:

    Amazing story. Thoughts to the man and his family. What incredible heroic men that helped get him out.

  11. Cindy says:

    Such a sad and tragic storey and really a shame there is a post regarding anything but, on here.

  12. Larry in 'tonka says:

    Heros — yep. Tip my hat at ya folks,,,,job well done. Never heard a peep nor a siren and I live less than 1/2 mile from that spot. Missed the hero act — again, you done good! 🙂

  13. Kathryn says:

    I’ve known him for 20 years. He is my best friend’s son. He is a wonderful young man who I love dearly. Please pray for him. Love you, N! I still have the little turtle-man you gave me. xxxooo

  14. FPR459241 says:

    Oh, and by the way…thank you so much to the four wonderful men who came to his rescue. We need more people out there like the ones at the scene last night. This is very heart breaking and the family is very sad and confused today and so thank you for all your courage last night. It’s a brighter world because of people like you!

  15. FPR459241 says:

    Before people want to start opening up his life via the internet maybe they need to consider him and his family first. Until you have been to the hospital to witness the atmosphere and experience the pain his family is going through, then maybe you should keep your mouth shut! There is a big, big picture here with a lot of missing information, so maybe you should think twice about what you want to say to the world. The family needs to deal with this a bit more private than having postings on the web about the situation. So unless you want to leave your thoughts and prayers for the family or thank the “heroes” of the night, please don’t post your comments. (This comment is directed toward “Very Sad” and the person that is too much of a coward to even post a name). He is a great person and his family loves him very much, so please give them the respect of not speculating a story of your own and just leave positive thoughts and prayers for him and his family.

  16. A friend of the victim says:

    Hey Mike,

    Could you please keep your negative what you think was involved to yourself until they tell you otherwise? I have known the victim for many years and it’s hurtful when you come to read about the heros who helped to save him and you read negative comments about hm. You clearly know nothing about the vicitim or anything and you have to understand that many of his friends and family will be reading this article. How about you just praise the people who still have hearts and say some prayers for the victim and keep the negativity to yourself. You know you would want people to do the same for you.

    Thanks! And stay strong buddy….you have a whole lot of people praying for you. Your recovery will be a long road, but we’d rather you be here for us to help you through it then for you to leave us forever! Thank you to everyone involved in rescuing him. You all are truly heros!!

  17. FPR459241 says:

    Thank you friend of the victim. I reported some comments last night and the site took them down. We are trying to deal the best we can and need nothing but positive thoughts right now. So I just wanted to thank you for your sincerity.

    1. A friend of the victim says:

      sorry…my stupid phone reported that comment…ugh! But you are welcome. I actually live right by the accident site, so I say a prayer every time I drive by. My heart is breaking for him and his family. I have also been friends with his cousin for a very long time. It’s such a tragic accident and you are right, they need nothing but positive thoughts and prayers right now. And it’s true, I’ve made the same comment on other articles where people speculate on what they think they know and I don’t know people involved. It just makes me sick that people automatically assume there is something else involve, like drugs and alcohol or something else, b/c they don’t seem to understand that accidents truly do happen!!! I don’t need a thanks for just trying to remind people of common courtesy…whether you know the person/people or not. Just think of how you would want people to respond if you were in a similar situation. My prayers are with you bud!!

    2. Melissa says:

      Hi. I’m assuming this is a family member of Nathan. This is Melissa and my husband and I were there for everything and our hearts are so attached. Will there be an open funeral to say our respects and prayers at? Also if you need anything would you please let me know. I know pastors who are great and muscisians if you need any help. I am SO sorry for your loss. I wanted to visit at the hospital and I am so sad I was too late. My prayers are with you all and I cannot imagine your pain and the pain of the parents. Much love.

      1. FPR459241 says:

        Hi Melissa. Yes, I am a family member of Nathan’s. Could you email me directly so we can talk, perhaps over the phone, more privately? My direct email address is mchll580@mchsi.com. I would be happy to share more information with you, I just don’t want it to be so public. There have been way too many people on this ‘blog’ that have been disrespectful toward my family, so some information I do not feel I want to share with everyone. I will look forward to talking with you!

  18. a friend of the victim says:

    his name is not important unless you are a family or friend…please keep any supposed information to yourself. the truth of the situation will come out when the truth is known. until then allow the family and friends to pray and focus on his recovery without having to answer questions about what people are speculating on. thanks

  19. FPR459241 says:

    I asked for people not to be exposing his life on the internet or speculate any stories. I am a member of his family and do not appreciate people’s stories on here. You have no idea what happened and you have no idea about the ex-girlfriend. I leave you with this…there are two sides to every story and this girls father does not have all of his facts either. Don’t take everything you read at face value. If you want to know the truth behind the story, you will have to wait for the entire truth right along with the rest of us.

  20. Friend says:

    I have been praying for you since I heard about this!!! I am hopeful that you will have a speedy recovery!

    Big shout out to Jacob Kauppila, Jared Bekkala and Chase Riutta!!! The world today needs more angels like yall!

  21. Friend says:

    I have been praying for you since I heard about this!!! I am hopeful that you will have a speedy recovery!
    Big shout out to Jacob Kauppila, Jared Bekkala and Chase Riutta!!! The world today needs more angels like yall!

  22. Unknow1222 says:

    I am the victim’s cousin, and I would like to personally thank the hero’s involved with the rescue of my cousin.. And for the few that post inappropriate postings regarding this tragic event, I pray nothing like this happen’s to someone you love!

  23. friend of the family says:

    I believe the victim’s mother made the very tough choice of letting her son have a better life in heaven today. We will miss him dearly. We love you N.

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