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.

Comments (10)
  1. just saying says:

    Thats sad.

  2. D says:

    NO one should die like that.

  3. Ashlee says:

    I knew him personally. Nate and I dated breifly in high school. He is one of the most charismatic and quirky people I have had the joy to come into contact with so far. He spread contageous laughs and smiles to each and every person he came into contact with every day. Despite his character, he had things he needed to figure out and understand deep within his mind. Or rather, things he needed help to figrue out and understand. He was troubled in a deep, personal sense that not very many people outside of his mind could or would understand, including myself. Nonetheless, he was a child at heart. Something we all should strive to find for ourselves. When I saw his room for the first time, I walked into a bedroom with a tent in it, in which he slept in and a box of action figured and misc. toys very readily accessable. He was a kind heart with a confused mind and massive smile. I wish I had gotten the chance to tell him that no girl is worth his life – EVER. Maybe with that, his life could have been spared. He will be greatly missed and deeply thought about by so many people each and everyday. Especially on today, July 11th – the day of both his death and his birth. He lived to see the afternoon of his 23rd birthday (today) but not the end of it. He will be celebrated and remembered forever. May you rest in paradise, Batman.

  4. Kate says:

    It is hard to see someone die like that. The guys that helped him are wonderful and should always remember how they tried to help. I would guess the family is grateful there are such wonderful people in the world that would try to help Nathaniel.

  5. Richie says:

    First of all, whoever wrote this article needs to check the facts. His name is Nathaniel, el.. Not al.. And he is 23 not 22. And Ashlee.. Why are you saying these things. People don’t need to hear all of that. Quit trying to make yourself close to the situation when you weren’t.

    1. Eliz says:

      People can speculate all they want and say what they will. I understand when people don’t know how to handle their feelings they need someone to blame to ease their minds. But the truth is only two people really knew what was going on and how he was feeling and still we weren’t in his head and didn’t see this tragedy coming. I love Nathan with my whole heart and then some. I’ll never forget all the happy times we had… the way he could always make me smile. No matter how mad I was at him he could ALWAYS get a laugh out of me. He was a great man and I just wish he had been able to live out a full life and experience all the joys that come with it. Knowing how much pain he must have been in is a very hard thing to cope with and I know it has been extremely hard on me, his best friend, and his family. I just hope he is now at peace. I love you Nathan.

      PS. thank you richie.

  6. Ashlee says:

    Richie, don’t go after me. I am not close to the situation. But I did know him and those are the observations I have from those times. Its someone I knew that has passed tragically. So I will say so I wish. I said nothing back and it is with all due respect. A friend has passed away, its the same all across the board, some are closer than others. He will be missed by a lot of people, including myself. So I apologize for you feeling the way you do, its unfortaunte. I wish you and everyone else that knew him – be it, meeting him once or knowing him for years the best in the greiving process. My heart goes out to his family.

  7. Amy Jack says:

    This is a sad story and people grieve differently and are entitled to their own thoughts.

    Meanwhile, spell check anyone???

  8. Dave J says:

    My heart is broken thinking about this. I will never forget about Nathan or the great friend he was. The years spent hanging out with Nathan after school will stay with me forever. Without him, I wouldn’t have made it past junior high school. He was the best friend a guy could ask for. My heart and prayers are with you Liz, Richie, and of course his Mother and siblings.

    Rest in peace Nate.

    Dave Jensen

  9. Jake Adams says:

    Thank you, thank all of you for the kind words. Nate is my brother. I love him sooo much. It haunts me every day. It is not getting any easier. Thanks again and please don’t forget him.

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