To Jesse Iwuji, the effort to help a family in distress was simply the natural response to a crisis.
An officer in the Naval Reserve, and a driver in both the NASCAR K&N Pro and ARCA Series, Iwuji was driving home from Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma when he noticed a disabled minivan sitting in the breakdown lane on Interstate 5.
“Underneath the van, I saw a lot of fluid leaking from the motor, and there was a small, little fire that began to ignite,” Iwuji said. “From my background in the military and in racing, (I knew) flammable fluids can ignite pretty quick and start a huge fire pretty quick.”
Safety safety safety guys and girls. I saw a small little fire underneath this family of 4’s van and I knew right then it was about to be bad news. I’m glad I stopped and got them away because they were still worried about getting stuff out the car. Things went from small to bad
— Jesse Iwuji (@Jesse_Iwuji) June 25, 2018
Iwuji stopped, and unable to move the van clear of the fire, he hustled the family of four to safety. When they were roughly 30 yards away from the vehicle, the engine exploded. Iwuji made sure the family was safe and continued on his journey. Realizing that he hadn’t offered the stranded family a ride, he spent 45 minutes returning to the scene to correct the oversight, but, by then, the family was gone with the assistance of first responders, and the vehicle was being hooked up to a tow truck.
“Everyone says it’s heroic,” Iwuji said. “For me, honestly, it’s just being a good person. At the end of the day, I think we can all do what happened that day. It’s nothing Superman, nothing like that.”
But Iwuji’s act of selflessness struck a chord when he posted a video of the car, engulfed in flames, on the internet. The video went viral and attracted intense interest from national news outlets.