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EXCLUSIVE: Children, Infant Rescued From Burning School Van in Feltonville

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(credit: CBS) Walt Hunter
Eyewitness News Reporter Walt Hunter is one of the market's ...
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By Walt Hunter

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Only CBS 3 cameras are there as neighbors, led by a school crossing guard, rescued as many as 8 small children, and a baby in a car seat, from a school van that began burning as it brought the children home from a Feltonville Elementary School.

Crossing guard Mary Mulligan says she and neighbors were alerted by the sounds of the children, and two adults screaming, fire spreading below the van, as it filled with smoke, tires exploding.

“I hear a loud bang like an M80 went off and I look up here and I seen fire underneath the axle in the back tire, and so the lady gets out freaking ‘my kids, my kids,’” Mulligan said.

Neighbors raced to the van, unbuckling children and carrying them to safety.

“I just grabbed a kid and brought them to the hair salon and then seconds later, it just blew up. There was a bunch of smoke and it was still was on fire,” rescuer Derrick Little said.

One neighbor pounded his way through the rear door of the van to get a baby in a car seat, according to Mulligan.

An adult riding in the van says she heard a “boom”, speculating the fire began with a brake problem of some type.

Medics rushed to help neighbor Carlos Santiago who suffered a leg injury but declined treatment.

“They were strapped in and it was hard to get them out because smoke was in there, they couldn’t even breathe in there,” Santiago said.

As firefighters doused the last hot spots on the burning van, the children, shaken but unhurt, resumed their trip home.

“Everybody was safe, that is most important thing, everyone is safe. Very scary. My heart is still pounding. Very scary,” Mulligan said.

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