A police officer is crediting Good Samaritans with helping to rescue a mechanic following an explosion and massive fire Thursday at a commercial building in Bradford, New Hampshire.
The mechanic and one other man were critically injured in the incident at Student Transportation of America (formerly Valley Transportation) located at 2345 Route 114 in Bradford, the state fire marshal's office said Thursday.
Investigators believe an explosion sparked the fire that tore through the property, which includes a maintenance yard for school buses and a storage site for RV’s and cars.
When the first crews arrived at the scene, they saw heavy fire and smoke pouring from the building. Investigators said two mechanics were trapped and surrounded by flames.
"My chief came over the radio explaining that he heard screaming coming from inside," said Master Patrol Officer Neil Flanagan.
"We went in and grabbed ahold of his arms and tried to pull him out but couldn't get him," Flanagan added. "There were a number of Good Samaritans at that point and they were helping, as well."
What they didn't know at the time was that one victim was pinned under a large metal garage door after the wall came crashing down.
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Flanagan says after making repeated attempts to get the man out, unsuccessfully, more people showed up to the scene, including a firefighter who works in a neighboring town.
Flanagan says the police chief found a chainsaw in a fire truck and another Good Samaritan was able to cut the debris, so they could eventually pull the victim out.
"Having everybody show up when they did, every little piece that each one of those folks did really made a huge difference," he said.
New Hampshire Fire Marshal Sean Toomey said Thursday that some bystanders performed the rescues, in addition to assistance from the police officers who were first on scene and then supplemented by the first arriving firefighters.
According to Flanagan, the heat from the flames was so intense that his face blistered, forcing him to step back a couple of times.
All of this was happening, he said, while more explosions were going off.
"It was one of those things they needed to get him away from that building because they didn't know when the next explosion was going to come," Flanagan said.
He says the other trapped mechanic was able to get himself out.
Both victims were taken to Boston hospitals with critical injuries, including significant burns and bodily injuries from being hit by the collapsing building.
"Without all those Good Samaritans and the help from the fire department and the rescue and the other police departments in the area, it could have gone a lot differently," he said.
Gov. Chris Sununu tweeted about the fire on Thursday, thanking first responders who were on scene.
A team from the fire marshal’s office is investigating and has at least one theory so far.
"There's a propane bus in there," said Toomey. "Reports of an explosion involving the propane bus, the evidence on scene looking at it right now appears as if there was an explosion because of the debris around the building."
But it's still early to have a firm conclusion, Toomey said.
At least three buses were destroyed, as well as multiple RVs and cars, according to Toomey. An investigation is ongoing.
Bradford, a town of about 1,600 residents, is located about 30 miles west of Concord.