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Kids Yanked from Van Just Before Flames Spread

A North Carolina state trooper is being called a hero after rescuing a mother and her four children.

Last Thursday, Jessica White DePriest, her two-and-a-half-year-old son and 18-month-old triplets were driving to Georgia on Interstate 95 when their van started acting up.

DePriest was on the side of the road when trooper Alan Humphrey pulled up.

After a while, he noticed heat waves and flames coming frmo the van and scrambled to get the kids out. Seconds later, the van burst into flames.

They all escaped just in the nick of time.

Humphrey and DePriest, along with her four children, Jacob, Rebekah, Raychel and Kalob Lockard, told their story on "The Early Show" Thursday.

DePriest said she knew something was wrong when her van wouldn't go over 20 miles per hour.

She said, "I knew I couldn't make it to Georgia. So, I turned the van back around to go back to my mom's house in North Carolina. … I was on the phone with my mom telling my mom to come and get me because my van wasn't working. And all of a sudden, my van was just smoking."

When Humphrey pulled up, DePriest said she was relieved because she was alone on the road.

Humphrey said, "I just noticed she was on the shoulder of the road and on the telephone, she looked pretty much distraught, so I decided to pull up and check on her. She said her van was running a little hot, and actually, I asked if she had any passengers, and she said she had these four small children with her."

Though DePriest said she had someone on the way to help her, Humphrey didn't leave DePriest. He said he wanted to make sure she'd be safe.

He explained, "She's a female with four small children. They were stranded. She said it would be about an hour and I just didn't feel comfortable. It was the right thing to do to stay there with her until somebody could arrive to provide her some more assistance."

But about five or six minutes after he arrived, Humphrey noticed heat waves coming off the hood of DePriest's van.

He said, "I ran up to the front of the van and I noticed flames coming from the engine compartment so, at that time, I told her to immediately just start trying to get the children out of the van. And as we were trying to get the children out of the van, thankfully, a passing motorist stopped with a fire extinguisher trying to put the flames out so we could continue to do so."

Humphrey said about a minute after the kids were taken out of the van, the car burst into flames.

"(The fire) took off fast," he said.

DePriest said her husband, Army Specialist Patrick DePriest, who is serving in Iraq, didn't know how extensive the car fire actually was.

"He thought it was just a regular car fire," she said. "The explosion was about the size of a big room."

DePriest, who stayed with her mother for a month, had her car packed with the family's belongings, from strollers to clothing.

"When the gas tank exploded, it took everything with it," she said.

"Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill remarked, "It's just amazing. And the good news in all this, of course, you are here with us. You are all safe and sound."

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