‘Jump into rescue mode’: Witness recounts moments after deadly wrong-way crash on I-65

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Ian Abel is a musician who said he went into “rescue mode” early Sunday morning when he saw a car catch fire after a wrong-way crash on I-65 North.

According to Metro police, 24-year-old Madeline Rutledge died after being hit head-on by 26-year-old Shakiyla Smith at around 2:45 a.m. Sunday. The crash happened on I-65 North just before the Briley Parkway and Dickerson Pike exits.

Abel was riding by in an Uber with a friend when he saw the fiery scene on the interstate.

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“It happened maybe minutes before,” Abel said. “Immediately you just jump right into rescue mode.”

Abel told News 2 he got out of his Uber while it was still moving and ran across five lanes of traffic to rescue Rutledge from her burning car. She was unconscious, according to witnesses, as Abel and a group of bystanders attempted to break the window to pull Rutledge out.

Abel said a driver eventually gave the group a hammer which they used to break the window to then remove Rutledge from the burning car.

“You could see the smoke coming through the vents,” Abel said. “The entire engine was in flames, and there was oil under the car, so we knew it was only a matter of time before it all was going to go up.”

Less than a minute later, the car burst into flames, Abel said. However, Rutledge still had a pulse.

“We were kind of rejoicing, and we were holding her like, ‘Oh my God, we did it,’ but then the cops got there and I guess it faded. They started immediately doing CPR,” Abel said.

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Rutledge was rushed to Skyline Medical Center where she died, according to police.

“I just hope that we were at least able to save the family grief of knowing she didn’t burn up in a car,” Abel said. “All things considered, I guess we can count that as a little victory in a heartbreaking scenario.”

However, the other driver survived, likely thanks to another witness, Kenny Turner, who had his son pull over after seeing the flames from the crash.

“When we passed it, I saw the fire, and it was a fresh fire because it was just on the other girl’s car’s hood,” Turner said. “It was like the crash just happened.”

Turner got out of his car, yanked Smith’s door open, and pulled the 26-year-old out.

“It could’ve been anybody,” Turner said. “It could’ve been one of y’all; it could’ve been anybody in the car. It could’ve been somebody I care about. I didn’t know who was in the car. I was just trying to get whoever was in the car out of the car.”

Turner added Smith’s legs were badly broken and she couldn’t speak. She was sent to the hospital in critical condition.

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Turner told News 2 a higher power pulled him toward the scene to help.

“I don’t know other people’s beliefs, but my belief is God,” Turner said. “I was supposed to be going home, but we did a U-turn and went somewhere else and ran into that right there. It wasn’t me, it was God. It was God getting her out of the car. He was just using me.”

Police said there were no signs of impairment at the scene. Smith will likely be charged following her release from the hospital, according to police.

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