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Pair Honored For Pulling Man From Burning Van

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Stephanie Lucero
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DFW AIRPORT (CBSDFW.COM) - Two North Texans who rescued a paraplegic man from a burning car were honored on Thursday at DFW International Airport. Walter Vaughn and Kristy Dana Gish jumped in to help save the life of T.J. Griffin, who was trapped in his van on March 29 at Terminal A at the airport.

“I actually thought to myself, I hope I die of smoke inhalation before I get burnt,” said Griffin. “Right when I said that, Walter came to the window and I felt. ‘Okay, I have a chance.’”

Griffin believes that an electrical malfunction may have sparked the vehicle fire. Vaughn and Gish both ran to help Griffin and pull him away from the vehicle as it became fully engulfed in flames. DFW Airport surveillance video shows how Griffin was moved away from the burning vehicle just seconds before it exploded.

“Every time I looked up, I saw where the fire was,” said Vaughn. “At that one point where the fire was at the glass at the front, that’s when it actually hit me whether I was going to have to pull back or not.” Vaughn said that he just kept working to try to get Griffin out of the car. He was finally able to unlatch his seatbelt.

“And shortly after that, he said, ‘I got it, I got it,’ and the seatbelt came flying back,” recalled Gish. “I grabbed the seatbelt and Walter bear-hugged him and pulled him out of the vehicle. And I said, ‘On the count of three, we’re going to pull him over here.’ So, we each grabbed an arm and pulled him further away from the vehicle.”

Griffin is in a wheelchair because, in 1990, he broke his neck while playing football for Trinity High School in Euless.

Griffin, Vaughn and Gish are now good friends, and said that they have inspired each other to do more with their lives.

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