Everyday Heroes: Stranger saves family in burning van - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Everyday Heroes: Stranger saves family in burning van

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(09/19/12) - Every year, the Genesee-Lapeer chapter of the American Red Cross honors our friends, family and community members who stepped up when they were needed.

Those 'Everyday Heroes' will be honored at an event this Thursday, including Nicole Baker. She's a Davison woman who saw something she just couldn't ignore.

It was just before Christmas and Marie Bachmeier had a van full. Her parents, two grandkids and two Chihuahuas all headed to Grand Ledge. Also aboard - some Lionhead rabbits to be traded for Netherland Dwarfs.

At the same time, Nicole Baker was headed to work, along the same stretch of I-69 in Genesee County. Near Nichols Road, their paths would cross.

"Some lady comes racing up beside us waving her arms. Motioning for us to pull over. She was shouting something, but I don't know what. And I think, 'What in the world is the matter with her,'" said George Lee, Bachmeier's stepfather.

"There's just flames pouring out the back of the car," Baker recounted.

"I had checked my rear view mirror and changed lanes right before that. I couldn't see flames from where I was, they were obviously going out the back with the wind. And so we were clueless," Bachmeier said.

Already frantically trying help the strangers in the van, Baker saw something that kicked her motherly instincts into high gear. "Seen the baby car seat. Like I didn't even know if there was any kids in there. But that infant car seat was in there, I could see it through the window."

That's when Baker made a dangerous move. "I got in front of her and then like literally slammed on my brakes. I didn't really give her a choice."

As Bachmeier stopped, smoke came rushing forward.

"I immediately went to the back door because I knew there were babies back there. I figured the adults could get out of the front. So I tried opening it, it was locked," Baker explained.

The power locks weren't working, but Bachmeier's mom managed to unlock the back door from the front seat.

"As soon as we opened them up, the flames come up. Both sides," Lee said.

Lee was between the baby boy in the car seat that Baker saw, and little Hannah, just three-years-old. They would have to go over the flames to get out.

"The gentleman in the back handed me the infant car seat with the baby, and I kind of turned around and set it down. And then I grabbed Hannah, the little girl," Baker said.

With everyone, including the dogs, safely away from the van, Bachmeier went back for her beloved bunnies. "Then the thought was if it explodes, it's not worth it and I'm going to have kids, six kids that have no mom. And that's what stopped me. It wasn't the flames, I was willing to go through them."

"We weren't far away from the vehicle and the whole thing went up. I mean the whole thing went up," Baker recalls.

The van was a complete loss. It burned so completely investigators never figured out what sparked the fire and left a patch of burned pavement along I-69.

"It's still like that. I see it every day on my way to work," Baker said.

Both Baker and Bachmeier say they now check their rear view mirrors more than they ever did before. They also have a new appreciation for the kindness of strangers.

"I don't know I'm just glad they're alright. I mean I seriously think it probably scared me more than them. I mean I'm just glad they're okay, and I wouldn't wish anything like that on anybody," Baker said.

"I remember going home that night and just crying about gosh, I could have lost my grandkids today, I could have lost my parents. It was just overwhelming. And I don't know. I was just thankful that's there's a big guy up above that sends guardian angels to help us," Bachmeier said.

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