Father searching for ‘angels’ who rescued his son from fiery crash

FOXBOROUGH, MA. (WPRI) — The near fatal drive to a Boston ballgame would’ve never happened without Hurricane Irma.

And the North Providence driver might not be alive without the help of several strangers.

As the massive storm was roaring into Florida, Richard Benson told his son Devin, who’s a senior at The University of Tampa, to come home.

“I wanted to make sure he was safe,” Benson said. “The hurricane was heading right for him at that point.”

Four days later, on route 95 just outside of Foxborough, that casual drive to a game came to a crashing end.

“He blows a tire in the middle lane, swerves to the right, swerves to the left.”

The car landed upside down in a wooded area near the fast lane and according to the police report, Devin was unconscious.

“It was a horrific scene with a heroic ending.”

Then, the help came.

A pair of Rhode Island College students, a painter from Cranston and someone Benson calls a “mystery man” pulled over in separate vehicles.

They ran to help, even though the car was on fire.

The painter, Arthur Pallingas, had a fire extinguisher that momentarily put out the flames, and he had a wrench to crack into the locked car.

“They smashed the window,” Benson said. “They cut the seat belt and the three of them pulled Devin to safety. He’s a big guy, so it wasn’t easy.”

Moments later, everyone involved knew how bad it could’ve been.

“The car exploded,” Benson said. “They pulled him out and less than two minutes later the car did explode in flames and the whole car was engulfed.”

The police report gave Benson the phone numbers for Pallingas and RIC student Karl Ong, who connected him to fellow RIC student Kelly Pestana.

Devin and his father met Ong and Pestana in a tearful reunion last weekend. .

“They were great,” Benson said. “So down to earth and still concerned about my son who did get a concussion.”

He thanked Pallingas over the phone.

“Again, just a nice person, wondering about my son.”

But two off-duty E M T’s and a nurse who helped Devin after he was out of the car are not named in the report, and neither is the “mystery man” who broke the window.

After Devin was stable, the unknown hero did this.

“High-fived everyone and said, well, we saved a life today. And then he got in his car and he left,” Benson said, tearing up a bit. “They went above and beyond and risked his life to save my son.”

Benson already reached out to the world on Facebook, hoping for a clue.

He knows very little about what the heroes looked like. There is one brief description of the one who high-fived everyone and drove away who is described as, “an African-American man with a muscular build, driving a silver Chrysler with Massachusetts plates.

“It was a horrific scene with a heroic ending,” Benson said. “In this day and age, you just hear bad, all the bad. But a group of people from different walks of life, got together and helped.”

So, the rest is up to you.

Benson would love for anyone and everyone to share this story so he can find the rest of the heroes, who stopped to help when so many others kept driving.

Email Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com with your story ideas and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.