HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Riverview family says they’re lucky to be alive after their family van caught fire and exploded last week.
According to Ciara Gallup, she along with six of her children were driving through Brandon, when the hood of their 1996 Ford E-350 started to emit smoke.
“We were sitting at a stoplight, and then I started to smell something weird and then there was some smoke,” Gallup said. “I began to roll down my windows and that’s when I started to see some small flames. I screamed for the kids to get out, the van is on fire.”
The mother of seven, claims her second oldest child, Bastian, began frantically weaving through the van’s various rows of seats and ultimately got the majority of his siblings to safety.
“I was having trouble getting my 1-year-old out of the van because she was still in her car seat and it’s complicated when you are rushing,” Gallup said. “Bastian who is 8-years-old, stepped up at a time like this, in a rush and started unbuckling the kids with me.”
An EMT who just happened to be in the vicinity of the fire also rushed to help save the family.
According to Gallop, seconds after the children made it out of the burning van, it exploded.
“You could hear the pop of the windows,” Gallop said.
The family took refuge in the Brandon Christan Church, which was several yards from where their car caught fire. Gallop says the church offered her family food and water while first responders worked the scene.
Additionally, the Florida Department of Children and Families supplied the Gallop children with brand new car seats.
Now, the family is looking for a new set of reliable wheels. They have set up a GoFundMe account to help replace their old vehicle. If you would like to donate, click here.
In the meantime, the Gallop children have created hand-made cards and drawings as a way of thanking everyone that helped them at the time of the accident.
“It was definitely a miracle,” Gallop said.
The van fire was determined to be caused by a faulty engine.