IT WAS AN EARLY WINTER day in 2007, not at all unusual - a mix of rain and snow and cold. Jim Randolph drove south in a rented car from Poughkeepsie on US-9 into the Palisades region on the way to his hotel from a day at the company office. He wished he was still at his apartment in Philadelphia, but the company had sent him to the New York office to assist in a new project.
Maria DiCosta strained to see the icy patches on the dark road. She had left her parents’ estate along the river in the Hyde Park area and sped along US-9 in her Jaguar, anxious to get to her business in Manhattan, Maria’s Interiors, to prepare for a sales meeting the next morning.
Maria suddenly realized she was driving too fast for the black ice conditions and she let up slightly on the accelerator. While she normally drove this road well above the speed limit, she was suddenly frightened by the darkness, intermittent snow, and the slippery road surface.
“Crazy bastard,” Jim muttered as a late model Mercury Marquis passed him and overtook the car in front, a Jaguar sports car. Jim watched in alarm as almost immediately, coming into a left-hand curve, the big car forcibly rammed the left rear quarter of the Jaguar.
“Oh God,” cried Jim as he slammed on the brake.
The Jaguar spun onto the left side of the road, slid into a gravel area, and slammed headlong into a rock ledge, fifty feet from the road. The Marquis continued around the bend and disappeared.
Jim pushed hard on the brake. He saw the sudden burst of flames from under the left front fender of the Jaguar, and seconds later at the back wheel. Impulsively, he turned abruptly and shot into the gravel area where the burning car rested. He wondered if he could get the driver out before the whole thing went up in a ball of fire.
Jim’s car skidded sideways into brush, saplings and rocks before stopping. Panic gripped him when he saw that flames enveloped most of the front of the Jaguar. He sprinted from his car hoping to reach the driver before they were both in a fireball. He saw flames at the rear wheel and thought he might only have seconds before the fuel tank exploded.
The driver’s door didn’t budge as Jim yanked on it. He kicked it in frustration and pulled upward while pressing a foot against the rear panel. The door came open suddenly, spilling him backward onto the ground. He scrambled to his feet, thanking God under his breath that the door opened. He saw a woman with her face buried in the collapsed airbag. He didn’t get a response from her when he yelled, so he pushed the airbag out of the way and untangled her from the seatbelt and began to pull her from the vehicle. He strained to drag her limp weight away from the burning car. Grabbing her under her arms, he pulled and managed to move her about ten feet when he heard the alarming whoosh of a new burst of fire. He put all his energy into dragging her away, getting about thirty feet before the car exploded.
The shock wave made him stumble and lose his grip on the woman’s arm. He recovered his grip and started to drag her farther from the burning car when there was another explo-sion. Jim staggered when a metal projectile ripped through his shirt and tore into his right arm. A section of flying window glass then felled him with a knock-out blow to the head. Jim collapsed unconscious on top of the woman.