Middle School Teacher Saves Wheelchair-Bound Man from Burning Van Just Before It Was ‘Fully Engulfed’

A middle school teacher saved a man who uses a wheelchair from a vehicle just before it wa
Manchester Fire Rescue EMS

A middle school teacher saved a man who uses a wheelchair from a vehicle just before it was engulfed in flames in Manchester, Connecticut.

Heather Sica-Leonard, a teacher at Illing Middle School, was driving on Interstate 384 eastbound when she noticed a van had pulled over to the side of the road and saw smoke coming out, NBC Connecticut reported.

“I was just reacting to what looked like a driver struggling and a vehicle smoking. I had no idea the fire had started because it was the lower side of the dash,” she told the outlet.

Sica-Leonard told WMUR it struck her as odd that the driver hadn’t exited the vehicles, prompting her to ask herself, “…why is he not out of the car yet?”

“Something just didn’t sit right with me,” she recalled.

Manchester Fire Rescue EMS (MFRE) explained in a Facebook post that the driver, John, who has limited mobility and uses a wheel chair to get around, had pulled over after he “smelled smoke, then moved a cup holder to find flames coming from his dash.”

This afternoon MFRE responded to Interstate 384 eastbound for a car fire. Responding companies found a van, well…

Posted by Manchester Fire Rescue EMS on Thursday, February 23, 2023

“[Sica-Leonard] immediately stopped [and] approached the burning vehicle … at great personal risk to injury,” the post continued.

“When I saw it, I asked him if he was struck. He said ‘No. I’m handicapped. I need my chair.’ So I grabbed his chair, helped him get in and then moved away from the vehicle,” she told NBC Connecticut. 

WMUR reported the van “burned to the ground” just moments after Sica-Leonard rescued John.

The MFRE later determined the fire had occurred as a result of a fuel tank rupture and later released a video of firefighters attempting to douse the vehicle after it “became fully engulfed.”

Helmet camera perspective from the initial fire attack for the car fire on I-384 yesterday. Engine 4 stretches the attack line on a well involved van, where moments earlier, a middle school treacher rescued the driver before the vehicle became fully engulfed. #manchesterctfire

Posted by Manchester Fire Rescue EMS on Friday, February 24, 2023

“Her actions averted an almost certain fatal outcome and prevented anyone from being injured.” the MFRE concluded, congratulating the good samaritan on her life-saving actions. “Well done Heather!.”

John’s daughter has reportedly been in touch with Sica-Leonard and let her know that her father is doing well.

“Truly her seconds of quick-thinking literally saved this man,” Gordon Macmillan of the MFRE told the outlet. “Hero’s a word we use kind of lightly in today’s society, but this was truly a heroic event, this woman saving this man’s life.”


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.