By Judy Reed
Mike Baczewski might not think of himself as a “Good Samaritan,” but not everyone would have the courage to do what he did last Saturday morning—pull a man from a burning car.
The 72-year-old Sand Lake man was sleeping in the wee hours of Saturday morning, September 15, when he heard what he thought was an explosion about 3 a.m. Baczewski got up and looked out his window, which is at the intersection of 22 Mile and Ritchie, and saw a van burning on the bottom. It had hit the tree near his home. He called 911 while running out the door, and heard a man calling, “Help me! Help me,” he said.
“The van was full of smoke and the man’s right leg was twisted,” said Baczewski. He said he then reached through the window and put his arm around the man and started trying to pull him through the window, though he was on a restricted limit of lifting no more than 10 pounds, due to having a pacemaker implanted after he nearly drowned in Sand Lake last month. “I got him up on the window and then asked another neighbor to help me,” recalled Baczewski, “but he just walked away.”
Right about that time a guy in a pickup truck stopped and helped him pull the driver through the window. “We got him about six feet from the vehicle when it burst into flames,” he said. “The fire department got there about a minute after we pulled him away from the van.”
Baczewski said the man was lucky to be alive. “The whole front end was smashed with the tree all the way to the backseat. From the steering wheel over, there was nothing.”
According to the Kent County Sheriffs Department, the driver of the van, Calvin Sikes, 27, of Gowen, was traveling north on Ritchie when he failed to stop at the stop sign at 22 Mile, and crashed head on into the tree. He was sent to the hospital with serious injuries, but no burns.
Undersheriff Jon Hess said that Sikes would be arrested and arraigned on charges of operating while intoxicated.
Baczewski ended up spending a day in the hospital himself this week, due to tearing some muscle and tissue around his pacemaker, when he pulled the driver from the van. “Now I’ll be restricted for at least three months,” he said. “And my Medicare won’t pay for it.” But he knows it was for a good cause. “I didn’t think I was going to get him out. But either he was coming out, or he was burning.”