British Columbia

'I don't need a big pat on the back': Bystanders save family from burning car

A car carrying a family of five, burst into flames Saturday night in Pitt Meadows after smashing into a hydro pole.

'Their actions tonight truly saved the lives of an entire family,' says Pitt Meadows fire chief

Emergency responders said bystanders ripped open the doors of the family's car as it was on fire, and pulled them to safety. (Cory Correia/CBC News)

Dave Craik was driving home with a friend Saturday night when he saw a car swerve across Lougheed Highway from the fast lane and smash into a hydro pole.

"The car slipped over on its driver's side, started on fire right away — just under the hood," Craik told CBC News on Sunday.

Craik and his friend stopped and jumped out to help, two of several bystanders being praised by first responders for springing to the rescue of the family trapped inside the burning car. The accident happened just after 10:30 p.m. near Meadowtown Centre.

"[I] was thinking about hauling people up through the top side of the car, but the fire was starting to spread really quickly," Craik said.

"Seven or nine guys came and we all started rocking the car, flipped it back up on its wheels."

Man unconcious

Three of the car doors opened easily, and the female passenger and three children in the back rushed out.

But the male driver was unconscious, and his door was stuck. It took four or five people to yank it open and drag him to safety.

"He was very lucky that we were there, because if we weren't, the car would have been up in flames and he wouldn't have got out," Craik said.

"And that car went up. In about three, four minutes it was engulfed in flames."

The driver was taken to hospital, and officials said Sunday morning that he was in serious condition.

Craik and the other Good Samaritans, including two nurses who were able to help the injured family, left before first responders could get their names.

Pitt Meadows fire chief Don Jolley says bystanders saved a family from a burning car Saturday night. "They should be very proud of themselves, and certainly we're exceedingly proud of what they've done." (Cory Correia/CBC News)

'Saved the lives of an entire family'

Pitt Meadows Fire Chief Don Jolley applauded the bystanders for ripping open the car doors while the fire blazed nearby.

"Clearly the adrenaline of people trying to help is quite profound," he said.

He's hoping they come forward so he can thank them.

"Their actions tonight truly saved the lives of an entire family," Jolley said. "They should be very proud of themselves, and certainly we're exceedingly proud of what they've done."

But Craik said he isn't looking for any recognition.

"It's just something that —​ you're there, you do it. You be a Good Samaritan, be a good person," he said. "I don't need a big pat on the back."

Best and worst behaviour

While the best of humanity was on display on the highway Saturday night, both Craik and Jolley said the worst was there as well.

A dozen drivers trying to take photos and video of the accident hampered first responders from getting to the scene.

"It was extremely disappointing, bordering on despicable to arrive on scene and see cars pulled over, blocking the Lougheed Highway, filming the scene while this family was inside the burning vehicle, instead of getting out and helping."

Craik said he understood the instinct to be a spectator, but the consequences could have been severe.

"It's something that they do because it's just human instinct...but you also create a huge issue in doing so. You can create other accidents," he said.