A Man Disappeared From His Burnt Car and Lost All Memory of His Previous Life Until Reuniting With Family 23 Years Later

Some places are littered with abandoned cars. Though most probably came about for innocent reasons, a few involve curious mysteries. And some of these tales could have you taking car safety more seriously. One head-scratching story concerns a missing Australian man who disappeared one day, and the only thing found was his burnt car

What happened to Gabriel Nagy?

Burnt car in Australia in January 2020
A burnt car in Wytaliba, Australia, in January 2020 (not Gabriel Nagy’s car) | Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

On January 21, 1987, Gabriel Nagy left work to go home for lunch, but he never arrived. According to The Australian, his burnt car was found alongside a road the next day. But Nagy was nowhere in sight. 

Because it was unusual for him to go anywhere without letting his family know, local authorities launched an investigation to see if they could find him. A couple of weeks later, a clue turned up when Nagy surfaced long enough to withdraw money from his bank account. 

The trail led investigators to a store in Newcastle, where Nagy had purchased camping supplies. However, the case went cold after that. With no more clues to go on, the family was left with only questions and grief. 

For the next two decades, no sign of Nagy ever showed up, so his wife and children set out to have him legally declared dead. But before that could happen, a police officer did a final check through public records to see if anything might turn up. And to their surprise, it did. 

According to HuffPost, Nagy was still alive, and when the officer spoke with him, she discovered he had no memories of his past life aside from a few bits and pieces that would surface every now and then. During those 23 years, Nagy worked odd jobs and lived on the street until a pastor brought him on as a caretaker.

He finally reunited with his relatives, but they chose to let him piece his life back together slowly because of his amnesiac disorder. Nagy continues to chat with his wife and grown children even though he lives separately. 

Car safety steps to follow if you find yourself in an accident

If you’ve been in a car accident and you’re able to walk, stay with or near the vehicle if possible. Wandering away, especially into a forested area, could get you lost and reduce the chances of anyone finding you. 

However, in Nagy’s case, investigators believe he sustained a head injury that caused a rare form of amnesia called dissociative fugue. The disorder causes affected people to drift away from their loved ones.

Other cases involving missing people didn’t have happy endings. One night in 1993, Kristi Krebs’ car got stuck in the mud in a remote area. Like Nagy, she also went missing, but she has yet to be found. 

If your cell phone has no signal for you to call your loved ones, try not to walk off to find a phone. In many cases, you can still call 911 even without a signal. Then, when emergency services arrive at the vehicle, they can easily find you. 

If your emergency call won’t go through and you must walk away to find help or get a cell signal, be sure to mark the path you take. For instance, tie small pieces of fabric to tree branches, or mark various objects with chalk, marker, etc. Use whatever you might have in your vehicle to show investigators a trail they can follow. 

Other missing-person cases that bring awareness to car safety

Nagy’s and Krebs’s experiences are not uncommon, however. There are many mysteries of people connected to abandoned vehicles. One of the most recent published cases is that of YouTube content creator Gabby Petito. She went missing when she and her fiancé went on a road trip in her camper van.

Her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, returned without her. Soon, authorities launched a search and eventually found her body. Laundrie, a person of interest in the young woman’s murder, took off and disappeared. His body turned up about a month after Petito’s. Laundrie’s cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Jeff Anthony Shepard was another driver who went missing. In this case, Shepard and his Ford F-150 disappeared in 2018. Three years later, divers searched the water in an area where he was last seen and found his truck. His remains were inside. 

Before you travel, it’s best to perform maintenance on your car so it’ll be less likely to break down along the way. Also, keep emergency supplies on hand in the car, such as a spare key, a small set of tools, extra car fuses, and the like. 

Every year, missing-person cases involve abandoned cars. Whenever possible, use caution and stay safe if you have an accident in a remote area. Remain with the vehicle if you can, and always let someone know where you plan on going. 

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