Mattress on I-494 claims an SUV

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 3, 2010 - 11:25 PM

Rubbish on the road lodged beneath the vehicle, causing friction, then a fire. No one was hurt.

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A mattress caught under an SUV caught fire and then ignited the vehicle at the Valley Creek exit of I-494 in Woodbury.

Photo: Photo by James Wood,

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A motorist's encounter with a bedroom community's version of roadkill nearly turned deadly for two women on an east metro interstate.

A mattress dropped on Interstate 494 became stuck under Kathy Rich's SUV as the Wisconsin woman drove north through Woodbury on Sunday evening. As the SUV dragged the mattress it sent off sparks and eventually ignited in a ball of fire that destroyed the vehicle and has Rich counting her blessings.

"They were amazed that we were alive and didn't get burned," said Rich, recounting her conversation with her insurance company. "When I look at the pictures on the Internet, we are grateful that we are alive. We had just gassed up."

Those photos were taken by James Wood, who was behind Rich on the interstate when he saw sparks coming from under her Toyota RAV4.

Wood sped ahead to alert the driver about her high-friction hazard.

Once he and Rich had pulled of the road, Wood said he yelled for her to move out of harm's way. But, Wood recalled, "She said, 'I left my purse inside.' I said, 'Let's go. You have your life.'"

Rich said, she retrieved her purse and cell phone a "matter of seconds" before the SUV caught fire.

Rich said she had no clue about what was dragging beneath her vehicle. Neither did her fellow traveler Marcia Rogers.

"I saw the car ahead of me drive over it," Rich recalled. Unable to change lanes amid heavy traffic to avoid the mattress, Rich said, "We bounced a lot and thought, 'Oh, good, we got over it.' I didn't realize [something was wrong] until all these people were waving at us."

"I loved that RAV4," Rich, an intensive-care nurse, said. "I just loved it. I had it since it was new." Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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