Local News

Lawyer saves man from vehicle fire in Raleigh parking garage

Posted November 3, 2015

— A Wake Forest man escaped injury Tuesday morning after an alert driver noticed a fire under the man's SUV as he drove into a downtown Raleigh parking garage.

John McWilliam said he had just cleared the barrier arm at the entrance to the city-owned Moore Square garage at around 9 a.m. when he noticed the smoke and then flames coming from the vehicle in front of him.

"I yell to the driver, 'Your car's on fire! Your car's on fire! Get out! Get out! Get out!'" said McWilliam, an attorney who was on his way to work at the Wake County Justice Center at the time.

Luis Ramos jumped out of the SUV, but he didn't turn the engine off, McWilliam said, so the vehicle started to roll backwards toward his car. McWilliam yelled for Ramos to turn the SUV off, and after Ramos did that, he stood next to the SUV staring at the fire.

"So I yell at him, 'Get away! Get away from the car!'" McWilliam said.

McWilliam said he called to the parking attendant to raise the barrier arm so he could back his car away from the fire, and then he called 911.

"When I'm on the phone with the 911 dispatch person, there's a massive explosion, which she hears," he said. "At that point, she gets it. All the other 911 calls are coming in, the sirens are blaring and I leave."

No one was injured in the incident, but emergency crews shut down the garage, on South Wilmington Street, to douse the fire and clean up.

Ramos said he felt very lucky that McWilliam told him about the fire.

McWilliam called the incident "scary but really exciting."


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  • Martha Matthews Nov 4, 2015
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    Whether he was a doctor, lawyer or Indian chief (please, no one take offense if that was politically incorrect), it is wonderful he was there at that time to help.

  • Karen Orndorff Nov 4, 2015
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    Glad he was there to warn the guy.

  • missjohnston04 Nov 4, 2015

    Knowing John McWilliam, he was headed to the courthouse to court which doesn't start til 9. I'm sure he was in the office much earlier. Glad no one was hurt during the fire.

  • Mark Colyer Nov 4, 2015
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    Wish I could go to work at 9am

  • Kevin O'Donnell Nov 4, 2015
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    A lawyer doing something good. That's a switch.

    Good work Mr. McWilliam.

  • Nathan Brewer Nov 3, 2015
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    What do you think the odds are he never had the cruise control deactivation switch recall done from over 10 years ago?