Two Recognized for Saving Paraplegic Man Trapped in Burning Van - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Two Recognized for Saving Paraplegic Man Trapped in Burning Van



    Walter Vaughn and Kristy Gish are being hailed as heroes for pulling T.J. Griffin from his burning van at DFW Airport. (Published Friday, May 3, 2013)

    Thursday the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport Department of Public Safety recognized Kristy Gish and Walter Vaughn for their efforts in saving the life of TJ Griffin, a paraplegic who was trapped in his burning van at DFW airport.

    Gish, Vaughn and Griffin were reunited Thursday when Vaughn and Gish were presented with the Citizens Recognition Award for their bravery in helping a citizen in need. The three told their story on the same day video of the ordeal was released to the public.

    After the fire broke out, Griffin said he started yelling for help.  He said Vaughn came pretty quickly but added, “That time, it seemed like forever.  Cause I could see the flames just coming up.  He looked at me and said, 'It's OK. We're good. I’ll get you out.'"

    Despite his assertion, Vaughn confessed he wasn’t completely confident he was going to be able to save Griffin.

    “After looking at it and seeing the fire, that's when we went to the next step. We’ve got to physically take him out. There was one point where the image came in my mind, where I thought, 'You're going to have to step away, but it went away and I went right back to what I was doing,” Vaughn said.

    As for Griffin’s confidence, he said, “I thought I was dead. I thought this is it. I could see the flames above my head, and I said, 'Pull me.' And he said, 'Here we go.' He bear hugged me and pulled me out."

    Gish gets emotional when talking about that scary day.

    “Burning alive is a big fear of everybody. I said, 'Just get him out and get him safe,'” Gish recalled.

    They pulled Griffin out of the car, but soon realized the danger was far from over as they began to hear the sound of shattering glass.

    "Right then, that's when we literally heard all the windows explode. So they grabbed me and took me 10 feet further away,” Griffin said.

    Vaughn said something just kicked-in that he wasn’t aware was inside of him.

    “Situations come up and you just react, and I really don’t know how to explain it. It was just a situation and you gauged it and went from there,” Vaughn said.

    Needless to say, Griffin was appreciative.

    “These are the most amazing people.” Griffin said, “People just don't do that.  People don't just run into a flaming van to try and help someone out.”

    Griffin said he's not going to live his life in fear, but in addition to taking other precautions he will have a fire extinguisher in his van at all times.