Wailuku resident Bob Gagne bought a van for $800, but within an hour on Friday afternoon his used car was going up in flames -- with him inside.
"My life went in front of my eyes," said the 60-year-old husband and father of two. "I thought I was dead."
Gagne said he picked up the van Friday afternoon from its former owner in Maalaea.
"The guy never told me there was a fuel leak," he said.
On his way home, Gagne noticed the 1997 Mercury Villager GS van's fuel was low, so he pulled into the gas station next to Carl's Junior to put $40 of fuel in the tank.
Back on Honoapiilani Highway, he saw his gas gauge dropping. And, as he approached Kamehameha Golf Course, he started to smell gas and smoke, and he asked himself, "What the hell?"
Smoke began to seep into the vehicle, "and the next thing I know there's flames coming up through the dashboard," he said. Around 4 p.m, he pulled over to highway's shoulder roughly halfway between the golf course and the Maui Tropical Plantation.
"Then, I couldn't get the seat belt off. I couldn't open the damn door," Gagne said. "I thought I was dead. The whole car caught on fire."
Somehow, he got out of the vehicle uninjured.
"I don't know how I didn't get burned," Gagne said.
For more on this story, see the Saturday issue of The Maui News.