September 4, 2012
Boy, 7, saves little brother from flaming van
By Damien Wood, QMI Agency
CALGARY - With his little brother trapped inside the family van, flames licking wildly up its back and side into night sky, Nathaniel Gonzalez-Collins could hear his mother screaming for him to help.
Alana Collins was on the opposite side of the van, somewhere off the highway near Milk River, Alta., unable to get through the fire, burning her arms, to get to three-year-old Luis Gonzalez-Collins.
She had to look to her seven-year-old for a moment of heroism.
Nathaniel was scared, she explained -- he didn't want to do it and she wasn't sure he would.
"I told him, 'You need to go in there and you need to get your brother'," Alana said.
"I told him he has to, 'otherwise we're going to lose (Luis).'
"He just said OK ... I don't think he even thought about it, he just jumped through the passenger door and jumped back out -- he got him out of there so fast."
Thinking about that ordeal last Wednesday night and the bravery of her little boy still brings tears to her eyes.
They, along with five-year-old Lillianna Gonzalez-Collins, were on their way back home to Calgary after a trip to the U.S., when not long after they'd crossed the border at Coutts Alana they had to pull off on a gravel road between farmer fields, about 300 km southeast of their journey's end.
As Alana pulled off, the van ended up going down an embankment and getting stuck.
With few options, she had her oldest give it gas while she worked from outside to free their vehicle, but then she heard him calling to her, "mom, I see fire."
What started the fire is unclear -- Alana thinks heat from the vehicle lit the grass -- but the back of the van was ablaze and quickly spreading.
Lillianna was able to get out, but Luis was strapped in, stuck.
"(Nathaniel's) the one that made sure everybody's still in our family and that everybody's OK," Alana said.
After Nathaniel saved Luis the rest of the van became engulfed and was destroyed.
Alana said her oldest did what nobody else could have.
"I think he gets that part but I don't think he grasps everything quite yet ... he still believes that it's his fault the van started on fire (because he was giving it gas)," she said, noting her youngest is still coming to grips as well.
"(Luis) actually remembers it ... he tells everybody, 'I was in the van and the fire almost killed me.'
"It still breaks my heart."
On Twitter: @SUNDamienWood