Video courtesy Natalie Atehortua
By Selene Raj
After being alerted by a stranger, a Coral Springs woman survived a near-death car explosion with just seconds to spare. Now, she’s hoping to get the public’s help in identifying the good Samaritan to thank her.
Luz Idarraga, 54, was on the way to the UPS store on Thursday to ship a package to her daughter, Natalie Atehortua, 27, who had recently moved to Georgia.
On the way to the store, she began to smell something strange.
“She smelled something like burnt rubber and got out to check but didn’t see anything,” said Atehortua.
Thinking it must have just been the smell of tires burning, she continued driving.
As she approached the corner of Rock Island and Sample Road, a woman in the car behind her began following and honking at her.
At first, she didn’t realize the honking was for her.
The woman then sped up beside her and got her attention.
“She said to my mom in Spanish, ‘Get out of your car, it’s about to explode,’” said Atehortua.
At that point, Idarraga was able to see flames beginning to engulf her car through the rearview mirror and quickly got out after having just enough time to grab her bag.
She ran over to a nearby police officer in a panic, who called the fire department.
In less than a minute, her car had exploded.
“As soon as she got out, it was completely engulfed in flames,” said Atehortua.
Shocked and shaking, she initially couldn’t speak but called her daughter anyway as she stood on the sidewalk, watching her car burn.
For the past 26 years, Atehortua said it’d been just the two of them, and this was their first time living in separate states.
Being so far away, worry overcame her.
“It’s just my mom and I, we have nobody else, and I was like, who do I call?” said Atehortua.
Both of them are still in shock but are thankful, understanding how much worse the outcome could have been if not for the persistence of a concerned stranger, who succeeded in preventing a more tragic outcome.
As far as the explosion goes, they still don’t have exact answers, as the cause is still being investigated. Thankfully, Atehortua said, their insurance will cover the damages.
In all the chaos, she wasn’t able to get the license plate of the stranger, who drove off after telling her to get out of the car, or the name of the officer who helped call emergency services to the scene.
Now, they hope to find both of the people who helped Irradaga.
Irradaga remembers the Samaritan as a white woman who spoke Spanish and drove a light-colored car.
“We are so thankful for her, and honestly, we can’t stop thinking about what would’ve happened if this woman didn’t pull up next to her,” said Atehortua.
If the person who saved her life happens to read this, Atehortua has a message for them.
“Please reach out—we’d love to know who it was so that we can thank them.”
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- Selene Raj is a writer and a Florida International University graduate. Born in Trinidad and raised in America, she completed her Master’s in Mass Communications in 2020 and has been living in Coral Springs since 2004. She is passionate about the communities she lives and works in and loves reporting and sharing stories that are as complex and meaningful as the people who live in them.
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