Two Wichita men are being hailed as heroes after they put out a van fire and saved a woman’s life on U.S. Highway 50 yesterday between Walton and Newton.
According to the Harvey County Sheriff’s Department, on Tuesday morning, emergency dispatch received a call reporting a woman was trapped in a burning van after running into the back of a box truck.
While emergency responders sped to the scene, a work truck for Paradise Power Washing out of Wichita, heading to a job in Junction City, approached the scene.
The two men inside the vehicle, Caden Nedbalek and Chris Chandler, pulled their vehicle over and began to help.
“We were a quarter mile away, and we saw a plume of smoke,” Nedbalek said. “We were in our power washing vehicle, and we had to do something. We saw the fire and knew we had water.”
Nedbalek said he and Chandler didn’t know there was a woman in the vehicle at first until they saw other passersby on the scene trying to help and extract the woman from the vehicle.
“We just knew we had to get it out,” Nedbalek said.
Chandler unrolled the hose across a lane of traffic and turned on the truck’s pump. It had about 100 gallons of water on board.
Nedbalek grabbed the sprayer and started battling the flames.
“I was right up in the hood of the car, putting out the fire,” he said. “I did see some gas leak. It was difficult to put it out, as gas was on fire,” he said.
Asked if he was worried about his own safety, he said that his instincts kicked in at the time.
“I did what I had to do,” he said.
Nedbalek was able to extinguish the flames and prevent re-igniting long enough for emergency response to arrive and extract the woman from the vehicle. She was transported to the hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries, according to the sheriff’s office. The driver of the box truck had minor injuries.
“I feel like her life was saved because they were at the right place at the right time,” said Harvey County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Lorenzo Bohringer, who arrived on scene to find the fire was out. “I feel that if they had not been able to put the fire out, there would have been no way we could have got to her before the fire guys got there.”
The sheriff’s department issued a release, commending the two men for their help.
“Whether you believe in divine intervention or good karma or just impeccable timing, we know there were a couple special people in our area yesterday,” the department stated. “We can’t thank them enough for their compassion.”
Tara Fessler, who co-owns Paradise Power Washing with her husband, said the men’s actions it didn’t surprise her.
“Caden is a great guy,” she said. “He’s awesome. We’re not surprised he did that. Some people driving on the way to a job could have said, ‘Look at that accident; that’s horrible.’ These guys had the thought, ‘Hey, we have water; we have a way of spraying water.'”
Nedbalek said it was just hitting him that he was responsible for saving a life.
“I got a call from their family giving thanks and giving gratitude,” he said. “It was the lady’s brother that called me. He said, ‘Without you, I might not have a sister.’”
Nedbalek said he was glad to be in the situation where he could help.
“I’m just thankful we were there and everything worked out the way we did,” he said. “We could have been five minutes down the road or stuck in the backed up traffic. I’m thankful we were right there when it happened.”