Teenage Taco Bell employee puts out car crash fire

Levi Cowdrey took a fire extinguisher from the restaurant to help the victims in the flaming vehicles outside
Published: Feb. 9, 2021 at 8:38 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Besides the cold weather, Saturday was a typical shift for Levi Cowdrey and the team at the Taco Bell franchise on the corner of Alexis Rd. and Yermo in Toledo.

Cowdrey says he took a break from building tacos, and while looking out the window, he saw multiple vehicles involved in a crash at the intersection.

“I go out there and I see it’s not looking good at all. I could start to smell smoke,” says the 16-year-old Whitmer student. “I knew there were fire extinguishers placed around Taco Bell, so I ran back here, grabbed the fire extinguisher and ran back out there, and put out the fire under the hood and the engine.”

Toledo Police say the four-vehicle accident happened around 3:41 p.m. According to officers, a driver of an Oldsmobile was eastbound on Alexis when the driver of a Dodge Ram truck in front of the car slammed on their breaks.

In order to avoid a crash, the Oldsmobile driver swerved left of center, lost control, and slid into oncoming traffic. Their vehicle was hit on the passenger side, then slid and hit another car.

Police say a passenger in the Oldsmobile, Andrew Nale, 30, of Toledo, died in the accident. The others were taken to the hospital.

Cowdrey’s 17-year-old coworker, Tessa Tiell, says she was preparing orders when she saw Cowdrey run outside.

“He ran out there to see what he could do, I saw him running back, and I went to meet him halfway and he said ‘fire extinguisher,’ so automatically I ran right here to the drive-thru, grabbed it to meet him halfway,” says Tiell. “He did what he had to do.”

The restaurant’s general manager, Julia Brumley, arrived that day to their drive-thru blocked off due to the accident.

She was at home when she got the phone call about what happened.

“I was told there was a really bad accident in front of the store, and that Levi, who is one of my best employees, ran out with a fire extinguisher and put out a car (fire),” says Brumley.

Using a fire extinguisher on car accidents may not be part of their training, but Brumley says she’s not shocked by Cowdrey’s actions after working with him for almost a year.

“He definitely has a big heart, he’s ambitious,” says Brumley. “It does not surprise me at all that he was able to react as quickly as he did.”

The high schooler says he’s never thought about a career in public safety, but says he would want another passerby to do the same for him if he was in the car.

“I didn’t see anyone else knowing what to do, I don’t think anyone else would think Taco Bell would be the answer, but I knew we had a fire extinguisher in there and I knew it needed to be used,” explains Cowdrey about his urge to help.

“Understanding your surroundings is big. Just thinking, if there’s a fire, what could you do in that situation instead of standing there and watching it happen.”

The accident is still under investigation by the Toledo Police Department.

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