Superhuman strength may usually be reserved for characters in comic books, but a Virginia teen proved she had brawn to rival The Hulk after lifting a burning truck off her father.
Charlotte Heffelmire, who weighs 120 pounds, came to the rescue after the jack slipped under a pickup her dad, Eric, was working on, trapping him underneath and then bursting into flames after leaking gasoline caught fire.
“I guess he was in the garage for about 10 minutes before I really just stumbled on him,” the 19-year-old told Fox & Friends. “I couldn’t hear anything. (I) kind of came into the garage and the garage was already on fire and really from there I kind of snapped into whatever super mode I had at that point and kind of did what I had to do.”
“The minute the jack slipped, there was an almost instantaneous, real strong smell of gasoline, and then just, whoosh,” Mr. Heffelmire said of his ordeal. “We had a bunch of propane containers and they were cooking off—just fireballs.”
After his daughter grabbed ahold of the vehicle, “I felt the weight shift, and I said, ‘You almost got it,’ and then it was just UGHHHHHHRRR, and suddenly I’m pulled out.”
Charlotte, who was barefoot at the time, then drove the truck away from the blaze and hosed down the flames, preventing its spread and allowing enough time for her grandmother and three-month-old niece to flee the family home unscathed. She sustained burns to her feet as well as a back injury, and has since been given Fairfax County Fire Department’s Citizen Lifesaving Award.
Charlotte’s feat of superhuman strength is out of the ordinary, but it’s not the first time a mere mortal has rivaled Marvel-sculpted muscle. Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger by Jeff Wise recounts an incident in which a man, Tom Boyle Jr., lifted a Camaro off of a motorcyclist it had pinned beneath its wheels and dragged along the road.
“To this day there’s something about that evening that he can’t figure out,” the book reads. ‘“There’s no way I could lift that car right now,” he says. Boyle, it should be pointed out, is no pantywaist. He carries 280 pounds on a six-foot-four-inch frame. But think about this: The heaviest barbell that Boyle ever dead-lifted weighed 700 pounds. The world record is 1,008 pounds. A stock Camaro weighs 3,000 pounds. Even factoring leverage, something extraordinary was going on that night.”
Wise hypothesizes that those split seconds of fear that enable men to raise sports cars one-handed, or teenage girls to shift a truck, provides access to an energy reservoir that remains otherwise untapped. With muscles receiving increased oxygen from soaring blood pressure and heart rate, and adrenaline surging, the resultant effect can, on occasion, be superhuman strength.
“It’s the biological equivalent of opening the throttle of an engine,” Wise writes. He also notes that instances of elevated pressure, such as the Olympics, are a prime example of how strength and ability can seem to suddenly peak—of Michael Phelps’s eight Gold wins at Beijing in 2008, seven set world records.
So while it might suck that you can’t train yourself to be Wolverine, maybe we can be superheroes, just for one day.