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Pizzeria owner, mechanics help woman in flaming car; Driver OK; blaze extinguished

By Staff | May 29, 2008

Cape Coral police and fire departments extinguished a car fire in front of a Tires Plus and pizzeria Wednesday near the intersection of Hancock Bridge Parkway and Santa Barbara Boulevard.

The call came in at 3:02 p.m. that a car was fully engulfed in flames about 20 feet from the building at 159 Hancock Bridge Parkway, according to police spokesperson Dyan Lee.

Local woman Pat Harding was the driver of the late model Ford Taurus station wagon that caught fire after overheating, she said.

“I saw the needle all the way over and said, ‘Oh my gosh,'” Harding said.

She said she had a cut on her chin that she got trying to get out of the car, but was otherwise OK.

Harding was on her way home from a doctor’s appointment on Viscaya Parkway when she saw the car was overheating, then saw smoke and heard a noise in the engine bay, she said. That is when she made the move to turn into Tires Plus on Hancock Bridge Parkway.

Unfortunately, Harding did not quite make it to the entrance driveway of the business, jumping a curb and stopping near another vehicle.

That vehicle was a truck that belonged to Tim Luke, the owner of Iragazzi Pizza next door to Tires Plus.

Luke sprang into action upon witnessing the incident, along with Tires Plus employees who raced to the car with fire extinguishers. Though the fire extinguishers did not help much, Luke was able to pull Harding from the car.

“I didn’t even think,” said Luke. “I said, ‘Something’s wrong.’ If the car blew up, everybody would have been in trouble.”

Luke said the car appeared to be unstable, and parts of the car were being ejected as a result of the fire. He said a piece hit the bottom windows of his truck. He was also concerned about his truck catching fire.

“It came out like a bullet,” he said.

Initially, Luke thought Harding was unconscious because she was sitting in the car when he approached, but later assumed she had gone into shock or had inhaled smoke fumes.

Police notes also indicated the possibility of smoke inhalation.

“I said, ‘Look lady, you gotta get out of the car,'” said Luke. “She’s lucky.”

Luke called 911 and brought Harding to Tires Plus to await the arrival of firefighters.

Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire by 5:12 p.m., according to Lee.

Luke said onlookers were kept a safe distance from the fire and told to stand clear. No one else appeared to be injured as a result of the fire, Luke said.