Lester C. Irwin, 38, truck driver, saved Aurora M. and Kelly M. Callegher, 10 and 5, respectively, and helped to save Neil C. Stewart,24, student, from burning, Mentone, Texas, August 12, 1956. When the automobile in which they were riding struck a concrete culvert, rolled down a bank, and burst into flames, Aurora, Kelly, and Stewart, together with two other young girls and the woman who had been driving, were injured and lost consciousness. Flames spread to dry grass and weeds, and the dense smoke attracted Irwin and Wayne L. Cadwallader, who reached the scene in a truck. Flames burned beneath and inside the automobile, which had stopped in an upright position; and the grass flames for eight feet around it were three feet high. Heat was intense. Irwin and Cadwallader ran to the sedan, each emptying a small fire extinguisher with negligible effect on the grass flames. Thereafter throughout the act the grass flames at times were in contact with their shoes and trousers. Irwin ran to the left side of the sedan, and Cadwallader to the right. Noting that the driver was in flames shoulder-high and appeared to he dead, Irwin jerked open the rear door and saw Aurora, flames burning behind her. He lifted her from the sedan and carried her back to the truck. Cadwallader found Stewart, who was caught beneath the instrument panel, lying amid flames at the open right front door. In attempting to pull Stewart from the sedan, Cadwallader lost his hold and fell onto the burning grass, sustaining burns. He got to his feet and summoned Irwin. Both men took hold of Stewart with their hands within two inches of flames which filled the front section. They forcibly pulled him from the automobile and dragged him to the truck. Hearing screams. Irwin ran back to the sedan and, as he had done with Aurora, removed Kelly from the rear section, most of which then was in flames to the ceiling. Irwin, carrying Kelly, had gone 25 feet when an explosive spread of flames 20 TO 30 feet high enveloped the automobile, and burning gasoline was thrown outward as much as eight feet. Using burlap sacks, Cadwallader and Irwin tried unsuccessfully to beat down grass flames then as much as four feet high in an effort to return to the automobile. Firemen summoned by a passing motorist arrived soon afterward. They extinguished the flames and removed the bodies of the woman and the other two girls. Aurora, Kelly, and Stewart were hospitalized. Aurora suffered only bruises, Kelly sustained serious burns, and Stewart suffered multiple fractures as well as third degree burns. Irwin’s throat was irritated by smoke he had inhaled. All recovered.
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