“I just went for it,” Maddie Weiler, of Williamsburg, Va., told WTKR. “Like, nothing passed my mind except he’s a psycho and he needs to get out of the car.”
The dramatic incident occurred on Saturday, when Maddie and her sister, Mollie, 7, were on their way to Busch Gardens for a spring break day trip. Their mom, Brandie, was driving their van, and tells Yahoo Beauty that she was third in line waiting at a red light when the car at the front suddenly charged out into the major intersection, hitting another vehicle.
“I was raised to stop and help people,” explains Brandie, who is the daughter, granddaughter, and niece of police officers. Brandie says she called out of her window to comfort the victim, then drove up a bit and pulled over, calling 911. She got out of her car to walk back towards the damaged car, while Maddie, in the passenger seat, locked the door, and remained inside with her sister.
Then, Brandie says, just as she got halfway between her car and the victim’s, she saw the driver who caused the accident — later identified as Paul Salsman — get out of his car.
“Next thing I know, he’s taking off right toward my van,” Brandie says, recalling that she had a sinking feeling about what he was up to. “It was like my feet could not go towards them fast enough.”
What happened then is a bit of a blur, she says, but somehow Salsman got the van’s door unlocked and slid into the driver’s seat, right next to Maddie — who sprang into action to defend her family.
“I put the car in drive because that’s a safety feature on the van, and held it there,” Maddie told WTKR. “And I just started punching him, and screaming as loud as I could.”
Maddie was “whaling on” the rather “big guy” with all her strength, her mom says — so hard that she wound up with a fractured wrist — and likely stopped him from starting up the vehicle with her quick thinking. “She rides four-wheelers and dirt bikes, and she knew that you can’t start a car unless it’s in park,” Brandie says. “But to think of that in a split second!” While this was all happening, she yelled to her daughters to get out of the car — something Mollie did first, eventually followed by fierce Maddie.
“Madison is so quiet and in-the-box — a rule follower,” says her mother, stressing how much of a surprise it was to see her daughter’s survival instinct in action. But she and the girls’ father, Steve, a former firefighter, say they are very proud of both girls for their bravery. “If anybody ever tries to take you, kick, scream, bite, hit, gouge out their eyes, whatever you have to do,” their dad tells WTKR he had previously told the girls.
Salsman eventually got out of the van and attempted to carjack two other vehicles, one driven by a person who “defended himself to the max,” Brandie reports, adding that police arrived on the chaotic scene after only seven minutes; they used a Taser to subdue Salsman, and later charged him with three counts of felony carjacking, felony hit and run, and driving under the influence of drugs. No passersby stopped to help at any point, she adds.
Following the traumatic experience, Brandie says, both girls are “doing OK. Mollie doesn’t want to be by herself, and Maddie is still taking it all in. One minute they’re fine, the next they’re crying.” As for Brandie, “I’ll still stop at an accident [to call 911],” she says, “but I’m not so sure I’ll get out.”
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