Nearly 200 mattress toppers rented by Harvard undergraduates met an untimely end after the U-Haul transporting them to campus erupted in flames on the side of the Massachusetts Turnpike Monday afternoon.
The moving truck went up in flames at around 3:19 p.m. Monday on the exit ramp toward Cambridge, drawing attention and sparking memes at Harvard and beyond. The drivers vacated the vehicle after noticing smoke and were not injured.
The mattress toppers were a product of BiggerBed, which converts twin XL mattresses into full-size beds using a mattress topper and a bed frame extension. Harvard students can rent the product for $399 through Harvard Student Agencies. All 188 mattress toppers set to be delivered to Harvard were destroyed in the fire.
BiggerBed co-founder and CEO Brett Harrison said he and his colleagues are “working [their] butts off” to make the situation right, and they hope to deliver a fresh set of mattress toppers to Harvard students by early next week.
“Everything was running really smoothly,” Harrison said. “We felt really on top of it, and then, of course, your truck explodes.”
BiggerBed employee William A. Stern, who was driving the U-Haul with another worker, said they noticed the truck’s temperature dial had “gone completely haywire.” The two parked on the side of the highway to let the truck cool, but as the U-Haul started to smoke, they exited the vehicle.
Stern said he was on the phone with a director from HSA to explain the delay when he heard an explosion which engulfed the truck in flames.
“We heard a bang and I was like, ‘I’m gonna have to call you back,’” Stern said. “So I called 911, and the police were there in two minutes.”
The Boston Fire Department, which responded to the incident alongside the Cambridge Fire Department, tweeted Monday that there was a “major cleanup” following the incident. One firefighter was taken to Mass. General Hospital after responding to the incident, according to the Boston Globe.
Harrison wrote an email to BiggerBed customers Monday afternoon where he attached a picture of the truck engulfed in flames and explained the incident.
“I know that you had put your faith in us to deliver these prior to your arrival on campus, and I sincerely apologize that we failed you,” Harrison wrote. “I am working with my factory to get more toppers made as soon as humanly possible.”
Sam D. Cohen ’24, who ordered a BiggerBed, said his reaction went from one of concern to amusement after reading the email, which was shared to hundreds more Harvard students after it was posted anonymously on meme platform Sidechat.
“They sent a picture of the burning truck, and it blew up into this incredible meme,” he said.
HSA President Alexander J. Kim ’23 said HSA’s customers have been understanding of the freak accident.
“People have been pretty receptive to when you have a 26-foot truck burned out on the highway, there’s really nothing you can do about that,” Kim said.
Customer Harrison R.T. Ward ’23 said the incident was “only a minor inconvenience,” and he joked that it might lead to increased strain in his relationship due to his dorm’s location in the Radcliffe Quadrangle — situated roughly a mile from the nine upperclassmen River Houses.
“Being in a River-Quad relationship definitely makes it harder when you don’t have a bigger bed to convince someone to come to the Quad, which is tough for sure, but it’s part of life,” said Ward, a Crimson magazine editor. “It was just, I think, very funny.”
Kim said despite the delay in delivering the mattress toppers, he was thankful that the truck drivers were unharmed.
“This is maybe a once-in-a-decade, once-in-a-lifetime event, but certainly grateful that it ended without any physical injury or any threat to the safety of the drivers,” Kim said.
—Staff writer Vivi E. Lu can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @vivielu_.
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