SYRACUSE, N.Y. June 20 2017 -- Matt Craven was working at the front entrance of a Syracuse gentlemen's club Sunday night when he heard tires screeching.
"I looked out the door and I see him taking out signs on the side of AutoZone on Thompson Road," Craven said. "He crashed through the intersection, into our Paradise Found shuttle bus and continued on into The Lost Horizon building."
When the car hit The Lost Horizon, it burst into flames. Debris flew from the wreckage and at least two tires rolled away from the car.
Craven, a 6-foot-8-inch, 360-pound bouncer at the nearby Paradise Found gentlemen's club, grabbed a flashlight and ran toward the burning car. Another man also ran toward the fiery crash and helped, he said.
"By the time I got there, literally 100 feet around the corner, the car was in a ball of flames and there was smoke everywhere," Craven said. "It was hard to get to him at first because there was so much smoke. It was just engulfing us."
But he knew he didn't have much time.
"I just put my shirt over my nose and mouth, closed my eyes and ran up to the car," said Craven, 28, of Clay.
Craven said the driver resisted his efforts to break a front window and said he wanted to be left alone. But Craven said he moved to the rear window and used his flashlight to break the glass.
"I just smashed the window out and got him out," he said.
Craven said he pulled the driver out of the car by the armpits and laid him down on the ground in front of Paradise Found -- far enough away from the car in case of an explosion.
Flames then engulfed the entire car.
"The car was a crumpled mess," Craven said. "There was nothing left of the car. The whole front end was gone. The tires were all over the road."
Syracuse police have not yet released the driver's name or whether he was charged.
After Craven pulled the driver out of the car, he noticed the man only had a cut on his right forearm and a bruise. As Craven was on the phone with 911, the driver told him no one else was in the car with him, but he refused to answer any other questions. Craven said he asked the man if he had been drinking because he could smell alcohol, but the driver did not answer.
"He kept trying to get up and walk away," Craven said. "He was trying to leave. That's when I picked him up and laid him on the ground."
Witnesses said they saw an ambulance leave the scene with its sirens on, heading onto 690 toward Syracuse.
As National Grid crews restored the broken gas pipes early Monday, an employee of The Lost Horizon said the crash will not affect business; its next concert is this Friday.
Two other witnesses to the crash said they saw the car speeding through the intersection of Thompson Road and Erie Boulevard at a speed they estimated to be close to 100 mph.
Tierra Williams and Rena VanScoter, employees at Cliff's Local Market, said they were standing outside on the sidewalk across from The Lost Horizon at 11:20 p.m. Sunday when they saw the speeding car barely miss hitting at least four other vehicles.
As the car traveled up Thompson Road, away from the 690 exits, it left tire marks on the sidewalk and in the grass next to AutoZone. The car then jumped a curb and struck the side of Paradise Found's parked shuttle bus, which Williams, VanScoter and Craven all think may have saved the driver's life.
"He was tumbling right for the building," Craven said. "If he didn't hit the bus, which slowed him down... it could have been a lot worse."
The car struck a natural gas service line and broke gas pipes on the side of The Lost Horizon building, as well as a post in the front of the building. No one was in the building at the time.
"It was a big boom; it was like something exploded," Williams said, describing the crash. "It was crazy. Even people in the nearby apartments came running down."
Williams said she saw several people unsuccessfully try to break the car window before Craven was able to get to the driver. She also saw many people afraid to get too close to the burning car.
"I was scared," she said. "If somebody didn't pull him out, he would have died in that car. The flames got higher and higher.
"It was a miracle they pulled him out," Williams said.