A driver is lucky to be alive this week after accidentally pouring several gallons of gasoline down the air intake of her 2005 Smart ForTwo—which promptly exploded when she turned the key, The Telegraph reports.
Fifty-four-year-old Julie Nicklin made the almost-fatal mistake on Friday morning when she pulled into a service station in northern England. If you're wondering how it's possible for someone to confuse a car's air intake with its fuel filler, look no further than the design of Smart cars themselves, which have almost identical ports located on each of the rear fenders. One is the fuel filler, and the other is the intake for the rear-mounted engine.
And yes, the air intake requires a bit more effort than the fuel filler to open (and is stamped with NO FUEL on the inside), but without a doubt it's a needlessly confusing design that prioritizes symmetry over functionality. It's since been updated to look like an actual air intake on newer cars, but that doesn't do much for the owners of older models.
In any case, Nicklin was trapped in her burning car right next to a fuel pump after the engine ignited, sending bystanders fleeing for safety. Fortunately, a nearby construction worker ran up to the inferno and pulled the mother-of-two out before she suffered serious burns. As he helped her away from the scene, a second explosion rocked the area as the fuel pump went up in flames.
"All you could see inside the car was flames. It felt like it lasted forever but it was literally seconds. As soon as I opened the door it went bang again and burned my arms, hands and neck," Brian Turner told The Telegraph. "She is only a small lady and had the seat right up against the steering wheel so I had to drag her out."
Though Nicklin's clothes were singed, she and Turner were both uninjured, The Smart ForTwo was completely destroyed by the fire, which was so intense that several motorists on a nearby road had to be treated for smoke inhalation.
"It was the most awful thing that has ever happened, but I'm just so embarrassed," she said.