Paraplegic rescued from vehicle fire

By Laura Geller - bio | email

Posted by Shawn Maclauchlan - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Wednesday started like any other day for Hayssam Agharaad, but it is now burned into his memory.

"All of the sudden, smoke started coming out everywhere so I had to open up the window and scream for somebody to help me," said Agharaad.

While on the Willey Bridge, Agharaad's van began to smoke, and soon burst into flames.

A paraplegic, he was afraid to use his arms to pull himself out of the van, because his body would be too close to the side of the road, in danger of being run over.

"I was scared. I was so scared that thing didn't blow up in my face."

But help was on the way in the form of four strangers.

A woman came and lifted him out of the car. Chad Christianson, Joel Woodward and another man then carried Agharaad about 200 feet away and out of danger.

"It was just black smoke everywhere, fire everywhere," said Agharaad. "My windows melted on the outside, and that's where I was!"

But it was too late to save his $7000 power wheelchair inside.

"It was a little disturbing to see all those vehicles go by and not stop," said Christianson. "If they had stopped sooner, then maybe they could have gotten him out of the van and his wheelchair."

Now Agharaad is confined to his manual chair.

Even with that loss, he'll never forget the four strangers who saved his life.

"I will thank them, invite them over for dinner, and do whatever I can for these people," said Agharaad.

Those two good samaritans are going an extra step. The fire department said they're donating money to help Agharaad buy a new power wheelchair.

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