You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 11:23 a.m.

Ann Arbor man dies from injuries following vehicle fire on I-94

By Kyle Feldscher


James Skupski

Courtesy of Janine Widzinski

The Ann Arbor man who was severely burned after his van caught on fire Tuesday morning on Interstate 94 near Chelsea died from his injuries at University of Michigan Hospital early Wednesday morning, according to state police.

Sgt. Chuck Bachmeier, of the Michigan State Police, said James Nicholas Skupski died at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday from the injuries he sustained during the fire.

Skupski, 58, was driving his 2006 Dodge Caravan eastbound on I-94 between Dancer and Steinbach Roads when the van caught on fire. A number of passers-by stopped to help.


The charred remains of the 2006 Dodge Caravan sit near I-94 Tuesday afternoon.

Melanie Maxwell |

Carlos Quintanilla, a former Marine who was returning to his home in Flint from a job interview, and an unidentified man pulled him from the vehicle.

Skupski was then transported to University of Michigan Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition Tuesday afternoon.

Quintanilla said Skupski had severe burns over the majority of his body when he and the other man pulled him from the vehicle. The two men used their jackets to help pull Skupski away from the burning vehicle.

Other bystanders, along with the unidentified man, used fire extinguishers and bottles of water to put out the flames and treat Skupski.

A nurse from the University of Michigan Hospital who used to work in the burn unit gave people instructions on how to help Skupski and assisted police officers when they arrived on the scene.

Skupski was moving his arms and giving state police troopers his wife’s phone number before he was transported to the hospital from the crash site, witnesses said.

Police said Skupski was eastbound when he went into the center median before crossing back over the expressway and crashing into an open field on the right side of the highway.

Police said Skupski was a paraplegic, but were not aware if the Caravan was outfitted with special instruments to allow him to drive without using his feet. Skupski was the only person in the Caravan, police said Tuesday.

Bachmeier said the cause of the fire was still under investigation.

Previous stories

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Fri, Oct 21, 2011 : 12:23 a.m.

We were neighbors and often saw Jim wheeling around. He was always friendly and warm to me, my wife and our young children. He will be missed for his cheerfulness as well as his strength and courage in handling his disability.

Oscar Lavista

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 5:48 p.m.

It is so sad that he died. Thanks to those who did their best to rescue him.


Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 1:32 a.m.

This is just tragic. Jim was a friend of mine and I can not believe this has happened. The last time I saw him was last Summer when we met with Eve at Frita Batidos to see if there might be a way to make the entrance wheelchair accessible. As a physician, it was his nature to help in a quiet, constructive way.

Matt Cooper

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 2:15 p.m.

I'm so sorry for your loss. Please extend condolences to his family.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 5:58 p.m.

The right side of the east bound highway? You need north or south, is that your point?


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 5:48 p.m.

Do I really see a sentence that reads, "..crashing into an open field on the right side of the highway?" Is it east or west or the wrong side?

Rod Johnson

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 : 12:34 a.m.

Huh? He was going east and went off the right side, which would be the south side. What's confusing there?

Marilyn Wilkie

Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 5:02 p.m.

I am so sorry to hear of Mr. Skupski"s passing. My heart goes out to his loved ones and those who did all they could to save him.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.



Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 4:33 p.m.

Oh no! I'm so very sorry. My thoughts and prayers are with Mr Skupski's family. And my deepest respect to all who were involved in his rescue.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 4:11 p.m.

Very sad. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and everyone involved.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 4:06 p.m.

A sad incident. My condolences to his family. I wonder if there is anything auto makers can do to assist paraplegics in exiting vehicles during such situations?


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 3:47 p.m.

Such a kind face Mr. Skupski has. My thoughts and prayers are with the Skupski family. RIP.