Sean L. James

Three children were trapped inside a SUV after a June 6, 2022, accident in Emporia, Kansas. Madilyn McNack, 6, and her brothers, Jaseh McNack, 2, and Alexander Wilson-McNack, 8, were in the vehicle with their mother when the SUV veered off an interstate highway and struck a tree. Their mother was pinned between the steering wheel and her seat. Fate, Texas, oil and gas inspector, Sean L. James, 47, was driving ahead of the SUV when he saw the accident in his rearview mirror. Tree branches prevented him from opening the driver’s door and when he attempted to open a rear door, the handle came off. From inside the car, Madilyn unlocked a door, and James leaned into the vehicle amid smoke and pulled her out. He carried her to safety and returned to the vehicle. He fully entered the car and crawled across the back seat to Jaseh. At this point, flames had spread across the dashboard and passenger compartment. Although James struggled with removing Jaseh from his car seat, with Jaseh’s helped he unbuckled it, held Jaseh to him, and retreated from the vehicle, placing him near Madilyn. James returned to the car a third time for Alexander and crawled again into the vehicle as smoke obscured his view. The mother informed him Alexander was in the vehicle’s rear cargo area. James’ hand brushed against Alexander when he reached over the rear seat, and he pulled him to him. James carried Alexander to safety as the car was engulfed in flames. The children’s mother died. A highway patrol officer determined she was trapped in the vehicle and could not be rescued given the intensity and extent of the flames by the time her children had been rescued. Madilyn suffered partial paralysis as a result of the crash. Jaseh suffered a broken left collarbone and Alexander suffered a laceration on his face. Both boys recovered. James suffered smoke inhalation but recovered.