HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – Quick thinking by several bystanders made a big difference in the outcome of a fiery crash Friday afternoon.
Portsmouth Police say the call came in reporting a two-vehicle crash just after 6 p.m. on the West Norfolk Bridge in Portsmouth.
Both vehicles involved caught fire.
Multiple injuries were reported and one driver was still pinned inside a vehicle as of 6:40 p.m., police said.
But before first responders got on the scene — Demarcus Wade, Grant Chapman, and Daniel Ross stepped in to help.
All three men said they were just riding along minding their own business, but at the same time felt like they were drawn to be there at that moment to save a life.
Wade got to the scene first. He said he took the long way to the gym on Friday and was not sure why, but when he saw the fire and smoke, he jumped out of his car to see if he could help.
“The image is stuck in my mind of her, those flames, and that smoke. Her moving around trying to get out and like ‘who’s gonna help me,'” he explained when he first saw the woman in the car.
“I told her, I said, ‘look, you’re gonna be okay, it’s alright, you’re gonna be straight,'” he added.
It was instinct for him to try to help even with flames roaring in his face. Wade said someone brought over a fire extinguisher and that’s when he thought relief was coming — but things quickly changed.
“The saddest thing I ever seen in my life. The flames started again and I heard her begin to scream and in my mind, I’m frantically searching. I’m thinking – I can watch this happen, I can’t see this woman, and by the grace of God, that’s when Chapman came out of nowhere.”
Chapman and his friend Ross were driving on the other side of the highway when they stopped to help.
“We ran over. Demarcus starts spraying the fire hydrant onto the flames and I tried to reach into the vehicle to grab her hand, and it was at that point when she said ‘I’m pinned,'” said Chapman.
Chapman says Ross went to get a towel to help, and that is when his own fear set in.
“I could feel the heat if the flames from 50 feet away, and I could see her in there and my immediate reaction was, ‘we have to get this woman out if the vehicle or she is going to burn to death right in front of us,'” he said.
Police say once out of the vehicle, she was transported to the hospital for her injuries.
But these two men say that moment has changed them and the way they view the world.
“These are extensive injuries, but she’s alive. I don’t feel like a hero. I just feel like a person who was there and what needed to be done at that moment,” said Wade.
“I just feel so glad that we were able to help her and just her strength and will to wrestle herself free. Just the group of people coming together on the bridge in the middle of a highway it’s kind of incredible,” said Chapman.
Both Wade and Chapman said they’ll always remember this and their faith in humanity has been restored.
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