LEICESTER (CBS) – An SUV burst into flames after crashing into a tree in Leicester Wednesday afternoon.

“Somebody just got into a car accident, they hit a tree and their car is on fire,” a woman told a 911 dispatcher.

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Hours later, that Ford Expedition sat in a Leicester tow lot virtually unrecognizable, a pile of charred, melted metal. Its driver, a 38-year-old Spencer man, managed to crawl out.

“He indicated that a deer had run out in front of him, he swerved to avoid the deer, went off the road and struck tree,” said Leicester Police Chief James Hurley.

Even the chief will tell you, by all accounts, the driver of the vehicle was incredibly lucky having walked away from the crash with really nothing more than a broken bone.

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“It’s amazing he walked away from it and fortunately there was no one in the passenger seat because there would have been very, very serious injuries,” Chief Hurley said.

It happened Wednesday afternoon on rural Baldwin Road.

“We live outside the second largest city in New England but we’re a rural community,” Chief Hurley said. “We’ve seen moose, we’ve seen deer, we’ve seen black bears.”

And for that very reason, Chief Hurley reminds drivers, especially this time of year, to be present and aware and sometimes, he says, that may mean making a tough choice.

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“Sometimes, and I hate to say it, you’re better off to nick the animal, or if it’s a smaller animal, try and get it so it goes in between your tires because this guy tried to do the right thing and avoid the animal,” Chief Hurley said. “It could have cost him his life.”