Ben Toma witnessed the fiery crash that killed one and injured another on the Loop 101 near 56th Street on Thursday.
The multiple-car crash involved four vehicles with a Mazda being the most severely damaged.
"It was really crunched in. I mean, the backseat was almost in the front seat. It was sort of touching the back of the front seat, kind of pushed over forward. The whole rear of the vehicle was crunched in completely. You couldn't see anything in the backseat. But I did see the driver kind of laying across the front seat," said Toma.
That driver was described as a young woman in her early 20s. Toma said she was unconscious but he did not see visible signs of external injuries.
Toma and another witness who stopped to help decided not to try to move the woman. But he wanted to shut the car engine off and check for a pulse on the victim.
"As I was reaching for the door the car literally exploded into flames. It didn't explode from the inside of the car it exploded kind of around the car," said Toma.
The blast caused Toma and the other witness to jump back away from the car. The heat burned Toma's face similar to that of a sunburn and the back of his hair was singed.
That was of no concern to Toma. He said he immediately ran back toward the car.
"But it was too hot. I couldn't do it. I still feel like maybe if I moved faster, you know, I could have got her out," said Toma.
The Valley real estate broker tears up when he talks about the young woman who he never met. He eventually wants to learn who she was.
"Not knowing whether or not she would have made it if the car hadn't exploded is, I think, the part that makes it incredibly difficult," said Toma.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety is still investigating the cause of the accident. The name of the woman who died has not yet been released.
Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
Sunday, August 31 2014 3:28 PM EDT2014-08-31 19:28:29 GMT
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