2 People trapped in burning car after inverter sparks fire

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Two people were air-lifted to the hospital Sunday, lucky to be alive after the car they were in caught fire while on the freeway in Mesa. By Catherine Holland Two people were air-lifted to the hospital Sunday, lucky to be alive after the car they were in caught fire while on the freeway in Mesa. By Catherine Holland
Two people were air-lifted to the hospital Sunday, lucky to be alive after the car they were in caught fire while on the freeway in Mesa. By Catherine Holland Two people were air-lifted to the hospital Sunday, lucky to be alive after the car they were in caught fire while on the freeway in Mesa. By Catherine Holland
Two people were air-lifted to the hospital Sunday, lucky to be alive after the car they were in caught fire while on the freeway in Mesa. By Catherine Holland Two people were air-lifted to the hospital Sunday, lucky to be alive after the car they were in caught fire while on the freeway in Mesa. By Catherine Holland
Two people were air-lifted to the hospital Sunday, lucky to be alive after the car they were in caught fire while on the freeway in Mesa. By Catherine Holland Two people were air-lifted to the hospital Sunday, lucky to be alive after the car they were in caught fire while on the freeway in Mesa. By Catherine Holland
Two people were air-lifted to the hospital Sunday, lucky to be alive after the car they were in caught fire while on the freeway in Mesa. By Catherine Holland Two people were air-lifted to the hospital Sunday, lucky to be alive after the car they were in caught fire while on the freeway in Mesa. By Catherine Holland

MESA -- Two people are lucky to be alive after being trapped in a burning car.

It happened Saturday afternoon on the McDowell Road overpass of the Loop 202 in east Mesa.

The 26-year-old man and 25-year-old woman were air-lifted to the hospital. Both are expected to recover.

The fire started in the backseat of the car with what the victims originally thought was a cigarette that had not been extinguished properly.

The driver tried to handle the situation himself.

"He had a glass of water that he handed to the backseat passenger to douse the smoke and the flames," explained Dave Johnson of the Mesa Fire Department. "It didn't work."

The driver parked the car and ran across the street to buy a couple of gallons of water. The flames were growing out of control, and his two passengers were trapped.

"When he parked against the curb, he parked so close to the curb that the passenger doors would not open," Johnson said.

The man and woman were trapped inside the burning car for several minutes. Both were in stable condition when they were flown to the hospital.

While it was initially thought that a cigarette sparked the fire, the real culprit turned out to be a permanent inverter that had been installed in the trunk.

The inverter, which is used to power household appliances, malfunctioned and overheated, catching on fire.

The driver of the car, who was not hurt and whose name has not been released, used to have a printer plugged into the inverter for his business.

Police said the driver was arrested for DUI, but made it clear that his alleged impairment had nothing to do with the fire.