Driving home from the hospital 3 days after giving birth, a woman saved a man from a burning oil tanker

ischer@businessinsider.com (Isaac Scher)
A tanker overturned and caught on fire in the intersection of I-465 and I-70 on Indianapolis' east side on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.

Indiana State Police

  • Driving home from the hospital only three days after giving birth to a baby boy, Holly McNally intervened in what could have been a tragedy.
  • She saw the driver of an oil tanker running on an exit ramp. She stopped her car and ran over to him, and eventually helped him to safety with two others.
  • "Those good samaritans saved this driver's life," said Indiana State Police Sergeant John Perrine. 
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Holly McNally was driving home with her mother near Indianapolis Thursday afternoon when she saw a man on fire.

McNally had given birth on Monday. Doctors were taking care of her baby in a neonatal intensive care unit for the first few days, so she was back and forth between the hospital and home.

Driving back from the hospital, she spotted the man running on an exit ramp. She stopped the car and ran toward him.

"I guess mom- and gut-instinct," she told IndyStar, a local affiliate of USA Today. "If that were my child or my husband or my family member, I would want somebody to run up if they could."

She didn't know she would be saving a life that day.

'Severe, catastrophic damage'

Around 2 p.m. on Thursday, an oil tanker carrying 4,000 gallons of jet fuel was driving on a four-lane interstate when it rolled over and exploded.

The flames spanned nearly 500 feet, Rita Reith, battalion chief of the Indianapolis Fire Department, told IndyStar. The fire wreaked "severe, catastrophic damage" to the interstate and a nearby bridge.

The crash and fire split the tank open when it turned over, according to Reith.

"If you can imagine a 4,000-gallon metal tank split open, there is just not much left of it," she said.

The wreckage after the fuel tanker overturned and caught fire.

Indiana Department of Transportation

'I could smell the fluid running past my feet'

As McNally chased after the man — the 59-year-old driver of the tanker — she noticed that he was badly burned. Another man who came running to help covered the driver with his coat.

As the three of them walked away from the burning vehicle, the first explosion went off.

"We started to go down the embankment a little bit, and I could smell the fluid running past my feet," McNally said. "I was like, 'You guys, we have got to get out of here.'"

"I'm thinking I'm going to blow up in an explosion and not see my baby again," she added.

Another explosion happened as they walked down the embankment.

The driver, who may have been in shock, started to slow down — and McNally thought they might have to carry him.

Luckily, another man came to assist and the driver was taken to safety.

The crash and fire split the tank open when it turned over.

Indiana Department of Transportation/Twitter

'Somebody was watching out for all of us'

"Without question, those good samaritans saved this driver's life," Indiana State Police Sgt. John Perrine told IndyStar.

The driver was taken to a hospital where he is in critical condition, according to Reith.

Even though McNally risked her life that day, and even though she had just given birth to her fourth child, she wouldn't have done it differently.

"I just couldn't leave somebody like that," she said. "Somebody was watching out for all of us."

See the full story from IndyStar »

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