Two Fathers Watch Helplessly As Their Families Die in Burning Mini-Vanby Jana Ritter - Published: 6/29/2016
On Tuesday, a two family vacation turned into a horrific nightmare after a tragic chain of events ended with two fathers watching helplessly as their wives and children burned to death, trapped in a mini van.
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The incident occurred early Tuesday morning at about 3:30 a.m. on the southbound 5 freeway near Gorman, CA. According to the California Highway Patrol, 34-year-old Aaron Hon Wing Ng and 45-year-old Wei Xiong Li were driving in a minivan with their wives and each couple’s two children. The two families from Northern California were heading on a vacation that never happened. They had reached the Tejon Pass, which is about 65 miles outside of Los Angeles and a part of the I-5 traveled by up to 19,000 big rigs each day. They were nearing the edge of the Los Padres National Forest near Gorman, when they got into a minor accident with a BMW. They pulled over to the shoulder of the road to inspect the damage, not aware of the worse danger posed with part of the mini-van sticking out into the dark highway. Before anyone had a chance to get out of the vehicle, a semi-truck came along the dark road at 55 miles per hour and was obviously not able to see the mini-van in time to slow down. The semi slammed into the back of the minivan and sent it hurling down a steep embankment with all eight passengers inside, finally coming to rest at the bottom of a grassy ravine. While the two men were able to jump out of the vehicle's front doors, their families were trapped in the back part of van and they began desperately attempting to pry open the back doors and pull everyone to safety. But the doors wouldn’t budge. The truck driver rushed down the embankment and tried to help, but the doors were jammed shut.
California Highway Patrol officers, Dan Williams and Jeff Burdick, were the first responders to arrive at the scene and Ng and Li ran towards them screaming for help. “We saw the husbands come running up to us, told us their families were in the vehicle still,” Williams said. At that point the mini-van erupted into flames and the situation became a deadly race against time. “My partner went and tried to get into the van door,” Williams continues. “The flames came at him. He had to back out. I grabbed the fire extinguisher, and I tried to extinguish the flames. But like we said, the van burst into flames very, very quickly and we were unable to assist in getting anyone out of the van.”
But Ng and Li refused to give-up and ran back towards the burning van, and continued to try to wedge the doors open while the flames burnt their hands and faces. Eventually it became obvious that there was nothing anyone could do and the officers had the heartbreaking job of restraining the two men to keep them from further injuring themselves. “We just held them. That’s all we could do,” said Burdick. By the time the fire department arrived at the scene the two wives and all four children were already dead. The two men were airlifted to hospital with moderate injuries.