BMW plows into Highland Park Binny's store, ignites vodka bottle display

August 8, 2013 (HIGHLAND PARK, Ill.)

No one was seriously hurt but the driver of that car and an employee who helped rescue her have quite a story to tell.

Store managers say they have had to throw out more than $100,000 worth of alcohol Thursday. The driver said that her gas pedal got stuck.

Thursday night, a newly-released surveillance video shows the alcohol-fueled fire after the crash.

"You don't have time to think when there are all these flames that are coming up around. And they're yelling, 'Get her out! Get her out! Get her out!'" said Marty Anderson.

Moments before, the 84-year-old Anderson was behind the wheel of her BMW, winding her way through the parking lot, she says, when she lost control, jumping a curb and crashing into the Binny's Beverage Depot.

"I've never had a drink in my life, and I know I have all my buttons. And the accelerator got stuck," she said.

"We believe the vodka she hit, the liquor, actually started the fire," said Highland Park Fire Chief Patrick Tanner. "Once she hit that, the car ignited. Then we had a pretty good amount of fire."

What happened next wasn't caught on camera.

As five-foot high flames and thick black smoke filled the store, witnesses say two Binny's employees jumped into action, one of them aspiring police officer Jack Bambrick.

"She was squished against the dashboard, and nobody was doing anything. So I turned to Chris, I'm like we've got to get in here," Bambrick said.

"The fire and smoke was so intense that it was hard to reach for the door, but he did finally get to the door," said witness Nelo Piza.

"She could barely move, so I had to pick her up by both arms and literally take her out of her car seat," said Bambrick.

Both Bambrick and Anderson were treated for smoke inhalation.

All day, crews have been cleaning up, throwing out bottle after bottle of top-shelf liquor.

Still, many here feel lucky.

"That's the first thing that came into my mind," Anderson said. "Did the car hit somebody else or something? Because it easily could have."

"We just kind of reacted," Bambrick said. "It was instinctual. And I'm just glad she's okay."

No citations have been issued, but the driver said she has been told by police that her driver's license will likely be suspended.

The Binny's store is expected to closed for at least one more day.

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