Boise & Garden City

Boise man survives fiery crash thanks to quick-thinking passers-by

If the drivers passing the two-vehicle crash on Idaho 55 Aug. 11 hadn’t stopped to help, the man trapped inside a burning vehicle likely would have died on the scene, said Idaho State Police spokeswoman Teresa Baker.

The crash could have hurt more than just Michael Stwan, 49, of Boise, who was pinned against the roof of his 2003 Kia Sorento. If the fire hadn’t been snuffed out quickly, it could have sparked a wildfire, Baker said.

Stwan crossed the centerline while driving north on Idaho 55 and hit Eric Larson, 54, of Boise, who was headed south in a 2012 Buick Regal. Stwan’s vehicle flipped and caught fire, according to ISP.

That’s when Mike Altieri, a former Boise State football player, who was riding back from a golf tournament with his boss, saw the crash.

“When we pulled up, there was nobody else around,” Altieri said. “We just took off running up to the scene.”

Altieri found an unconscious Stwan in his upside-down vehicle and attempted to wake him.

When Rick Daniels, a retired nurse and former Army colonel, arrived people were scrambling to figure out how to help.

“The first four men there didn’t have any background for providing medical care, so I sent two north and two south looking for campers and trucks [with] fire extinguishers,” Daniels said. “The first thing you do on a scene is secure it and make it safe.”

Jerry Bentley and Les Crandall, drivers with Brian Wilson Trucking in Emmett, brought an extinguisher and put out the fire before it spread, Daniels said.

“Those four individuals were willing and able,” Daniels said. “They were really putting their lives on the line. They were fully engaged.”

And they weren’t alone, Altieri said.

“Everybody who was there helped out,” Altieri said. “It was amazing how many people just stopped and started running up just to help.”

The experience had a profound experience on Altieri, who said it made him think about his family and loved ones. He said he felt glad to be able to help Stwan and Larson.

“I would love to know who they are and check on them and make sure they were OK,” he said.

Stwan and Larson were treated and released from Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, a hospital spokesman said.

Every spring, workers at Brian Wilson Trucking attend a first-aid course put on by the state, owner Brian Wilson said. Bentley and Crandall credited the training that allowed them to help.

“I was glad to hear they did what they were trained to do,” Wilson said.