Flames engulf the road. A thick black cloud of smoke billows into the sky. But this is no ordinary car fire in Michigan. The vehicle, driven by a respected lawyer, was the target a calculated and potentially fatal crime.
Erik Chappell was driving his sons Grant and Cole to afternoon football practice in their sleepy hometown of Monroe, Michigan in September 2011.
The powerful blast rocketed their steadfast Volvo station wagon like a race car down the highway before it burst into flames.
The hero dad had to act fast to save his kids from being burned alive. Grant and Cole crawled to the side of the road. All that remains of the family station wagon is a steel skeleton.
A shaken Erik phones his wife Maureen Terrell, who was at another sporting event with couple's two other kids, Erika and Emma. Maureen rushed to the hospital. Erik and the boys had cheated death, but their injuries were severe. Grant, who was the front-seat passenger, had deep wounds to his buttocks, and Cole, who was sitting in the back passenger seat, had his left leg embedded with shrapnel. Erik suffered deep gashes in his arm and face.
Investigators comb the car for clues. Then they bring in a bomb-sniffing dog. The dog finds a homemade bomb that had been planted under the car: a bomb so powerful the blast could be heard a mile away. And cops say it was intended not just to maim, but to kill. The mad bomber had stuffed the metal pipe with ball bearings, as well ammo for maximum damage. And the bomb was triggered using a toy car's remote control device. Cops believe the suspect may have been tailing Chappell's car when the bomb was detonated.
Thankfully, the Volvo had a sunroof, and experts believe that was the difference between life and death.
"They told us that having a sunroof made all the difference in the world," said Chappell. "Because it vented the explosion. Had we not have a sunroof, we wouldn't be here today.
"I think the target was me, but I have no doubt that the person who detonated the bomb knew the boys were in the car," Chappell said.
Erik Chappell prides himself as a good lawyer, but he's made some enemies along the way. His practice has handled some bitter divorce cases. One involved accusations of a husband videotaping his stepdaughters and their friends in tanning beds. Erik represented the now ex-wife.
That man that Erik Chappell calls a "bitter ex" has never been charged, or listed as a suspect in connection with the car bombing. In fact, no one has. Despite that, Chappell says he's sure he knows who did it, and he's ready to name names. Erik believes that monster is still taunting him, and his family.
On an anniversary of the car-bombing, Chappell's daughters Erika and Emma became targets of a second bomb. They claim someone planted a device in their mailbox with the word "explosive" written across it. Fire trucks, police and the bomb squad responded. Thankfully this device was unarmed.
"What I understand it was a commercial explosive device. It wasn't armed," said Chappell. "It didn't have a detonator on it, no fuse or what have you, but someone had placed that in the mailbox."
No one has ever been charged for planting the unarmed bomb either. The Chappell girls were shaken but they want the person who tried to mail them a piece of hell to know they're survivors too.
Shockingly in the five years since the car-bomb explosion changed the course of the Chappells' lives forever, the feds still don't have a prime suspect.
Even though Erik Chappell says he knows who did this, cops aren't naming a suspect and neither can we. In fact, ATF Special Agent Donald Dawkins admits the case is running out of gas. He's reaching out to the public for help.
Cole and Grant were badly injured in the blast, but they're back on their feet and back to playing sports. Grant has turned the ordeal into something else positive. He's going to medical school to be a trauma surgeon. Mom Maureen says she'll always be looking over her shoulder
"I think he's a despicable person," said Erik Chappell. "I don't think he has much use walking this Earth. It's one thing to focus on me, but the type of person who would do something to hurt kids, they don't have a place in our society."