PALM HARBOR, Fla. (WFLA) — The woman who died in a gas station fire in Palm Harbor on Wednesday had two children with her in the car that were saved by a good Samaritan, according to Florida Highway Patrol troopers.
The fire happened just after 2 p.m. Wednesday at a Shell Gas Station in Palm Harbor. According to troopers, a 66-year-old woman backed her Nissan into a gas pump, which then fell onto another woman who had been pumping gas into her SUV. The victim was pinned between the pump and her SUV when the gasoline “erupted in flames,” troopers said.
Sgt. Steve Gaskins with the Florida Highway Patrol said Thursday there were also two children in the SUV when the fire broke out. According to Gaskins, the 11-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl got out of the SUV after it caught fire and started trying to save their mother.
A good Samaritan ran over when he saw the kids trying to use fire extinguishers to put out the flames and pulled children away to keep them safe.
8 On Your Side spoke with the good Samaritan who helped the kids. Jared Pierson said he is homeless and was panhandling with his friend near the gas station when they heard a collision. The two didn’t think it was anything serious at first, but he said he started running toward the scene when he saw flames and a little girl grabbing a fire extinguisher.
Pierson said he tried to gather everyone up from the gas station and move them across the street to get them away from the fire.
“The kids wouldn’t leave my side and my buddy’s side, so we let them sit with our bum gear and that’s when we found out their mom was trapped in the car,” he said. “I didn’t see the mother in the car, it was all in flames when I got up to it.”
Pierson said he tried to look in the SUV when he first got up to it but didn’t see anyone inside. By the time he realized the mom was trapped, he said it was too late to help.
“Apparently she was pinned against the gas tank – the gas pump – and her vehicle,” he said. “By the time I was crossing the street, it was all a giant fireball. All I could do was pull the kids away and we all had to go across the way. Because I thought the gas station was gonna go up in flames.”
If he had known the mom was trapped, Pierson said he would have tried to do more.
“I’m just relieved that the babies didn’t get hurt, and if I would’ve known – you always say the what ifs and all that, you know,” he said. “I just wish I would have known earlier where the mom was. If I would have known the mom was pinned there, something would have been different. I couldn’t find the mom. That’s what really hurts.”
The fire is being investigated by the State Fire Marshal’s Office in addition to the Florida Highway Patrol.
According to a spokesperson, the FHP does not believe the driver of the Nissan was impaired so there will not be any criminal charges.