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March 21, 2007
Column #1,334
Advance for March 24, 2007
Rescued by Angels
by Michael J. McManus

"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the
God we serve is able to save us from it
and he will rescue us." Daniel 3:17

A group of American angels saved the life of my nephew, Timothy Nelligan, 31, after a fiery crash on a Los Angeles Freeway - but not without risking their own lives.

The hand of the Lord can be seen in a series of miracles.

Traffic on I-5 had come to a standstill. A speeding driver didn't notice and plowed his Hyundai into Timothy's 1989 Oldsmobile at 60 mph.  Its trunk and back seat were decimated. Metal smashed into Timothy's head.  Although restrained by a seatbelt, his head crashed into the steering wheel, knocking him unconscious. His car burst into flames and filled with smoke.  The two wrecked cars smashed into three others.

Miracle #1: Sean Hooper, a 17-year-old lifeguard, was in one of the cars of the second collision. He saw the fire, grabbed an extinguisher from his car and sprayed its flames.  So did Soheil Attari from another hit car.

Miracle #2  Joshua Ridhwan, 26, a professional race car driver and businessman, trained to handle accidents with fire, was already there. He saw the smoke a mile away while entering the freeway. He drove around halted traffic on the grassy shoulder to help save the life a stranger.

As others got out of their cars with fire extinguishers, Joshua took charge, instructing them to save some fire retardant to be used later.  He asked, "Is the driver out of the car?"  Several said yes. Not believing it, he shouted, "WHO'S THE OWNER OF THIS CAR?" No one answered. "He's still in there," he yelled.

Miracle #3: at that moment, Manuel Santos Fuentes (In English, Saint Fountain), a tanker truck driver stopped in traffic, ran up with a huge fire extinguisher.  Joshua shouted, "Break through the window. The driver's in there." Fuentes hit it once and again, fearing injuring the driver.  "HARDER!" Joshua screamed.  It smashed through on the third attempt.  Flames licked up from beneath the car, making it difficult to work.

Miracle #4: A breeze blew the fire and smoke away from the volunteers on the driver's side so they could smash remaining glass, and reach in for Timothy, still strapped in his seat belt.

"Does anyone have a knife?" Radhwan shouted. For 10, 15, 20 seconds, there was no response. Then Fuentes remembered his pocketknife. As he reached in to cut the belt, flames singed his moustache and eyebrows.

All of these men knew it was only a matter of seconds till the burning flames ignited the gas tank, which would cause a huge explosion. They reached in for Timothy, who was lying across his front seat.  They failed to get him out on the first and second tries; his legs were caught beneath the steering wheel.

Finally the heroes pulled him out, carried him for ten seconds when the gas tank exploded. In a panic, they dropped Timothy and ran.

Miracle #5 A Paramedic Van showed up.  But its drivers were a young 18-year-old girl and a 19-year-old driver.  They carried a stretcher, but when the gas tank exploded  they also fled. Joshua grabbed the wheeled stretcher, put it under Timothy, and pulled him safely to the van.

Timothy had seven staples to close his head gash and dressings for burns on his hand, but his lungs were miraculously undamaged. He was released within hours to his wife and baby. TV and newspapers told the story of the heroes, now recommended for medals.

Timothy said, "Angels protected me.  I am so blessed that God had favor on me and placed the right people around me, compelled to save a stranger. My life has been in the valley, but this experience took me to the mountaintop. I'm overwhelmed with love of people calling me, saying how glad they are I am alive.

"There was an underlying reason for this fateful meeting on I-5. It allowed me to re-evaluate my life. I want to make a bigger difference. Good things can come out of this."

Joshua, son of an Egyptian father and Messianic Jewish mother is an active Muslim who says, "All thanks and praise is to God (Allah). I was not scared by the fire, and was protected from it.  God is involved in everything. He orchestrated it... In Islam if you save one person from fire, it is the equivalent of saving mankind."

A Muslim, an Iranian, a Mexican and a teen lifeguard were Timothy's American angels.

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