Two men fight car fire to save 9-year-old

July 13, 2011 4:04:17 PM PDT
He is the man who saved a 9-year-old boy from almost certain death Monday night on I-295.

His name is Richard Vaughn and he spoke with Action News.

"When I got about three or four steps from the car, the heat hit me and the smell of gas hit me," Vaughn said.

But Vaughn of Lower Alloways Creek didn't stop.

Knowing from a passerby's screams that a child was trapped inside of a burning car that had just veered off 295 and crashed into a tree, the former firefighter and EMT fought to free 9-year-old Hakeem Crain of Maryland, whose right foot was pinned under the driver's seat.

"It actually took the third pull for me to actually get him out. I thought at one point I wasn't going to be able to. I just pulled for all I was worth and it came free," Vaughn said.

Meantime Jon Parkinson of Pennsville had arrived at the scene. Grabbing a fire extinguisher, he momentarily knocked down the flames and tried to help the three others in the car.

"I was beating on the side of the car with my fire extinguisher calling, saying anything I could and there was no response. All of a sudden it was like a bomb went off," Parkinson said.

Three adults including Hakeem's mother perished in the flames. The boy suffered a badly broken leg and other injuries and while they waited for the ambulance, Parkinson held the child's head and covered his ears so he wouldn't hear any details.

"He's been through enough. I didn't want him to know that his mom was in there, she didn't make it," Parkinson said.

State Police are keeping the boy's rescuers up to date on the child's recovery. He's now undergone a second surgery and remains hospitalized in stable condition.

"I don't consider myself a hero. I did what I had to do when I heard there was a little boy in that car," Parkinson said.

"9 years old, 90 years old, I would have still gone in," Vaughn said.

Vaughn thinks it was not fate, but faith that brought him to pull Hakeem Crain from that burning car.

"I think the Lord put me there for a purpose and that was to save that boy," Vaughn said.

Vaughn believes God gave him the courage and strength to act.

While he and Jon Parkinson couldn't save the others, a 9-year-old boy will have a chance at life because complete strangers were willing to risk theirs.