Uptown Car Crash Caught on Video

Early Friday morning, a Dodge Stratus with four passengers slammed into a utility pole in Uptown. The pole fell on the car, and a power transformer exploded, causing the car to burst into flames. Residents in the surrounding apartment buildings ran out to the rescue. They were able to pull two of the passengers out of the car. They used fire extinguishers from their buildings to battle the flames. The extinguishers weren’t very helpful.

In the end, the two men who were pulled from the car lived. The other two died.

Later in the day, a nearby resident, Jeff DePalma, posted a nearly 10-minute video of the car in flames to YouTube. The video was taken several minutes after the wreck and after DePalma had helped try to put out the flames. At the beginning of the video, two people are still in the car. One is still alive. You can’t hear him. You can only hear people talk about him. The video mainly just shows a car burning and several guys talking (sometimes cursing) about what happened and whether they’ll re-sign their leases. You can see the fire department arrive and figures running around. But that’s about it.

DePalma has come under some fire for posting this video. I think some of the comments may have been removed, but one that still remains calls DePalma a “freaking disgrace” for posting the video. Others thank him for it. A commenter is a brother to one of the guys who was pulled from the car. He wanted to thank those who saved his brother’s life. I believe he was able to get in touch with the appropriate people through the comments.

DePalma recently put up a note saying he’s only approving comments that offer condolences. He doesn’t feel his YouTube video is the place “to start a social media policy debate.”

But we could have the debate here. Was it appropriate for DePalma to post the video? On the one hand, it’s depicting the last few (terrible) minutes of two people’s lives. On the other, it’s news and it’s what happened.


Get a weekly recap in your inbox every Sunday of our best stories from the week plus a primer for the days ahead.

Find It

Search our directories for...









View All

View All


  • Kelly

    Not one little bit is it ok. I can not fathom watching my loved one burn to death. Visible or otherwise. Knowing they were trapped in a burning car. What is wrong with people?

  • Peterk

    well if that can’t be posted then why should the World Trade center videos be posted to the internet? yes it is a tragedy, but is also the news. Welcome to the world of citizen journalists

  • RossG

    It is news. While it is tragic, and it is hard to watch knowing at least one person was alive while it burned, it is at least comforting to know they waited to film until after they had done what they could do before whipping out their phone or camera and pressing record. I’ve seen film that showed people being severely injured or dying while someone was recording without offering any assistance whatsoever.

    What changes it from news and into more of a snuff film, are the comments and laughs/chuckles made at the dying/deceased expense. The WTC tapes showed horrible footage, but you did not have people making comments and then chuckling. Maybe, it was a defense mechanism for what they were watching, but it did not come across that way.

  • Sybil’s Beaver

    Kelly, I must say, in a time of tragedy that may involve my family, it would probably be best to not actually click a link to the video, and then actually hit play to watch it, and then read the comments. Does it suck, yes, but its news and its public and people are not generally kind in comment sections.

  • cathyb

    No one — family, friend or JQ Citizen — is forced to watch the video regardless of opinion on appropriateness of the film. I chose not to watch and so can you.

  • IHS

    Sadly, “Citizen Journalists” know little of journalism. Actually, neither do most of the major media outlets these days. Yes, as a photojournalist, I’ve shot video of many people facing their last minutes under horrific circumstances. However, before you jump my ass, if there was a hope of saving them, I dropped my camera and tried to help rescue them. But, that video never, ever made air. It was inappropriate and unnecessary. If necessary, lawyers could subpena my video for trail and fight it out with the tv news lawyers.

  • 1Zima2Many

    The fact that this is being presented as a “legitimate” debate in the comments is a sad commentary on the state of our society. The occurrence of the accident is news. The video footage is nothing more than grotesque voyeurism. The guy who rolled tape on a person slowly burning to death – regardless of whether he was in a position to help him or not – is sick and twisted. Period.