John A. La Chappelle rescued Mary Ann Barger, her twin brothers Robert J. and William J., and her sister Melodyanna from burning, Newark, California, November 13, 1961. The Barger children and their mother were driven home by La Chappelle, 21, laborer, who boarded with the family. In the integral garage of the dwelling, La Chappelle and the mother got out. The four children were asleep in the automobile, the fuel tank of which had a slight leak. As the mother entered the connecting kitchen, La Chappelle closed the garage door from the inside. The burner of a gas water heater near the rear of the sedan then came on automatically and an explosion occurred, followed by flames which badly burned La Chappelle and set fire to his clothing. Beating out the flames on his attire, he ran around the automobile and opened the rear door. Flames on the walls by then had spread onto the rear of the automobile. Heat was intense. La Chappelle removed Mary Ann, 6-months-old, from a bassinet in the rear compartment. There was an eruption of flames as the sedan’s fuel tank ruptured. The flames inflicted burns on Mary Ann’s head and additional burns on La Chappelle. He carried Mary Arm to her mother and then returned to the sedan. Gasoline burned on the floor under the automobile, on which flames extended almost to the door. In great pain La Chappelle lifted one of the 4-year-old twins from the seat and took him to his mother as flames spread across the entire end of the garage. While La Chappelle was removing the other boy from the sedan, the glass panes in the garage door broke. Wind caused spurts of flame which inflicted further burns on La Chappelle as he carried the boy to his mother. Returning again to the automobile, La Chappell removed Melodyanna, 2, from the front seat and ran with her into the kitchen. Firemen extinguished the flames. The Barger children were treated for burns and recovered. La Chappelle had sustained extensive burns and was in critical condition for 10 days. He was hospitalized for three months and returned several times thereafter for plastic surgery.
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