Wheelchair passengers rescued from burning van

Just moments before flames engulfed a van carrying passengers in wheelchairs, local heroes saved two men who were trapped inside.

Around 10:30 Tuesday morning in Vallejo’s Gateway Plaza, a van stalled carrying 14 people with PACE Solano, which assists those with developmental disabilities. Before long, the van began smoking.

Bill Putnam, a 70-year-old cab driver, was the first to spring into action when the wheelchair ramp failed to deploy, leaving two men trapped inside:

“I knew I was taking a risk, but I had to. I knew it was going to go anytime. That’s why we had to do it right away or forget it.”

Roy Thomas then ran across the street from the construction site where he was working to assist.

The pair were able to help the driver open the wheelchair ramp in time for the men to escape without injury.

Moments later, the van erupted into spectacular flames. No passengers were injured, but a firefighter was injured by an exploding airbag.

Firefighters believe that the fire may have started because of an issue with the van’s battery.