Donald Hubner came to San Juan Island a tourist but left a hero.
At around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, Hubner rescued a local man from a flaming car that veered off the pavement near Roche Harbor Road and Misty Isle Drive.
Hubner came to the island for a weekend getaway from Shoreline — just north of Seattle — but his fun turned to fear when his family passed a blazing vehicle on their way to a zip line tour.
“The car was on fire, and there was someone in the car. I just had to get him out,” said Hubner. “I’m glad we were there.”
Hubner, who is retired from the Navy, said he pulled a man from the car and even returned to the vehicle to ensure another person wasn’t inside. His wife and teenage daughters couldn’t reach 911 on their cell phones due to bad reception and ran to nearby houses to call.
San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs said the accident involved only one car and a local driver, who is about 30 years old.
The driver, said Krebs, narrowly missed one tree when he veered off the road and down an embankment and then hit another tree. Hubner said he saw smoke and flames coming out the hood of the vehicle.
The lack of skid marks leads the sheriff to believe the crash was caused because the driver was either asleep, impaired or had medical issues. However, the car was completely burned, leaving only a shell and no evidence, said Krebs.
Krebs couldn’t comment on the victim’s condition, but Hubner said he’s “really grateful he’s doing OK.”
Hubner is also thankful that he was in the right place at the right time. Initially, he had passed the scene, thinking the flames were from a possible trash fire, but one of his daughters believed the blaze originated from a car, prompting Hubner to turn around.
“That’s what keeps playing through my mind,” he said. “One of us just happened to be looking the right way at the right time.”
Hubner assured the Journal that his actions at the crash were both natural and commonplace.
“I’d like to think that just about anyone else would have done the same thing,” he said.
As for the weekend trip, the Hubners camped, kayaked and even made it to the zip line tour they were driving to when they passed the crash; response crews arrived that quickly, explained Hubner.
Ziplining, he said, provided a distraction from the incident that left his family “shook up,” but overall, hasn’t deterred them from another island trip.
“We love it up there,” he said. “It was beautiful.”