By Andy Sevilla, Austin American-Statesman
BASTROP, Texas — A Bastrop County judge said she and her friend saved two children from a burning vehicle Saturday night after seeing the car in flames and two adults nearby.
Justice of the Peace Donna Thomson and Olga Rangel were heading home to Bastrop, Texas, when they saw the vehicle on fire on Texas state highway 71 across the street from a junk yard.
“Olga (Rangel) pulled up, I jumped out and started running to the car,” Thomson said. “We didn’t have a choice. There was no fear, no nothing. Pure adrenaline.”
Thomson said she noticed two boys inside, one believed to be 3 years old and the other 5 months old. She said the boy was not in a car seat; the infant was in a bassinet.
She said a man was walking away from the burning vehicle and a woman was watching the car burn from a distance.
Thomson said she pulled one child out and handed him to Rangel and then went back in to grab the other.
Thomson said the woman, believed to be the boys’ mother, heard her tell 911 dispatchers she was a judge and that likely is the only reason the woman stayed behind.
“She didn’t make any attempts to help me or Olga,” Thomson said. “Then we separated the mom from the children.”
Ken Bailey, fire chief for Travis County Emergency Services District No. 11, said his department responded to a vehicle fire about 8:31 p.m. in the 4900 block of East Texas 71. He confirmed two adults and two children were the vehicle’s occupants but had no information if any citations were issued or arrests made.
Bailey said firefighters did not investigate the cause of the fire, and the blaze was out before fire units arrived. He said firefighters found oil leaking, but that it was likely caused by the fire. The fire damage to the car was not substantial, he said.
The Travis County sheriff’s office could not immediately confirm Monday if any citations were issued to the driver or passenger in the vehicle, or if any arrests were made.
Rangel, Thomson’s friend, said that when she pulled up to the car fire, she didn’t know there were children inside. She said it looked like the blaze had just started, and her first reaction was to pull over and help.
“We were able to save the boys,” Rangel said. “But to watch the parents walk away and leave them behind, that was heartbreaking. I couldn’t believe it.”
“It doesn’t matter if you burn yourself,” she said. “You always try to get the kids out.”
Thomson said she and Rangel were lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Their instincts and quick work may have saved those boys’ lives.
“People should always be good Samaritans,” Thomson said. “You never know. This wasn’t just two adults in the car, it was two adults and two children.
“We were relieved no one was harmed.”