MIAMI SHORES, FLA. (WSVN) - A Boy Scout based in Miami Shores is speaking out about the tense moments he and other members of his troop were involved in a fiery crash along the Florida Turnpike south of Orlando.
Mikey Palmatier said he and other Scouts and Scout leaders were on their way home from a weekend camping trip upstate when they found themselves in the path of danger, Saturday afternoon.
“‘Boom, boom, boom, boom.’ We looked over — fire, smoke was coming out of the sides,” said Palmatier. “It was pretty scary.”
The teen said a semi-truck struck their car from behind along the southbound lanes by the Fort Drum Service Plaza in Okeechobee County.
Minutes later, the truck exploded, and both vehicles went up in flames.
“My first thought was, ‘Wow, we just crawled out of that.’ I was pretty shaken up,” said Palmatier.
Cellphone video sent in by a 7News viewer shows children running away from the car moments before it ignited.
Fortunately, no one was seriously injured, thanks to Palmatier, his scout leader and nearby strangers, like Trayvon Schneider and his wife Lauren, who stopped to help.
“I was just concerned to make sure that there was no one else in the 18-wheeler and in the car with the kids,” said Schneider.
All occupants, including the truck driver, were able to exit the vehicles before the fire.
“I realized it was more serious after I helped my friend Claude out,” said Palmatier. “I walked him a little bit further away from the car, and that’s when we turned around, and then the thing exploded.”
Palmatier showed 7News a photo he took of the burning car before fire crews responded.
At the time of the crash, Palmatier’s grandfather, Roger Palmatier, also a Troop leader, was in a different car with other Scouts at the service plaza.
“The smoke was just a big –” the elder Palmatier said as he raised his arms and waved his hands around to convey the magnitude of the fire.
At first, Roger said, he had no idea his grandson was involved in the inferno, until he got closer and recognized the car.
“At first I didn’t know if anyone was hurt or anything like that. It was awful, because my grandson was in that car. I knew that,” he said.
In the end, everyone was OK. A troop leader and Scout suffered minor injuries and were taken to an area hospital for treatment.
They all came home later that same night, left knowing they dodged a disaster.
“It’s very surreal. I’ve been in that car for a lot of different campouts,” said the younger Palmatier. “It’s taken me camping for about six years, so to see it engulfed in flames, it was just shocking.”
Palmatier said another reason why no one was seriously hurt is that everyone was wearing their seat belts at the time of the collision, and that allowed them to get out of the car before it was too late.
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