A SINGLE careless act nearly cost a father of two his life on Tuesday.
An unknown woman driving down the main street of Berry at midday flicked a cigarette out of her window.
For her, the story ends here.
For Malcolm Bailey, riding his motorcycle behind her, a terrifying hour was just beginning.
All Mr Bailey saw was a cigarette butt flash past him. As he overtook the woman he gave her the finger and made some choice comments about her personal habits.
He was unaware the lit cigarette had lodged in his shoulder bag. As he rode through the winding bends of Foxground the wind fanned the cigarette into flames.
Behind him a man in a car saw the smoke pouring off his back and tried to alert him by flashing his lights.
It wasn’t until the heat of the fire penetrated his leather jacket that Mr Bailey knew something was wrong.
Both he and the man behind him pulled over, and the Good Samaritan sprinted over with a small fire extinguisher he kept in his car.
The satchel fire was too big for the extinguisher. As it ran out, the flames sprang back up, forcing the man to cut the burning pieces of satchel away from Mr Bailey and throw them on the ground.
The flaming satchel pieces then started a small ground fire on the side of the road.
As Mr Bailey and the driver began stamping out the flames other passing cars stopped to help.
“I reckon about four cars pulled over. I had people stamping fires out, putting out fires on me – about six people all together,” Mr Bailey said.
“The thing is, that woman must have gone past me and seen me and not stopped.”
The scrub fire took some 20 minutes to put out completely, and Mr Bailey got back on his bike with the Good Samaritan following.
They drove to Pedersen’s Motorcycles in Bomaderry. The Good Samaritan, who had just picked his mother up from hospital, left without leaving his name.
Steen Pedersen said Mr Bailey was stressed and nervous.
“He was shaking all over,” he said.
“It could have ended much, much worse than it did.”
Acting Inspector Daniel Maddocks said the mystery woman could face charges of aggravated littering, which carries heavy fines.
“Aggravated littering is very rare,” said Inspector Maddocks.
“I’ve been a police prosecutor for 12 years and I’ve only ever seen one case.”
Mr Bailey escaped with minor burns on his right hand.