Abdullah James, a Malawian who saved others from burning, has been named as the heroic gas station attendant

A petrol attendant has emerged as a hero after rescuing passengers trapped in a taxi that was burning right next to the petrol pumps.

After ensuring everyone was safe, 35-year-old Abdullah James rushed to get a fire extinguisher and doused the flames before it could spread.

“It all happened so quickly that my first instinct was just to save the people from burning,” said James about the 31 March incident, at the Engen Bramley service station in Johannesburg.

The taxi had just filled up and was preparing to leave when it burst into flames.

In the footage captured by the petrol station’s CCTV cameras, people can be seen frantically trying to get out of the taxi while its doors seemed to be jammed.

People sitting at the back were the first to jump out, while others broke the window of the taxi, leaving shattered glass everywhere.

While some people fled, James – who was busy assisting a customer two pumps away – could be seen rushing to the burning taxi to free some of the screaming people trapped inside as smoke quickly engulfed it.

“I heard a woman screaming inside the taxi, asking for help. So, I quickly rushed to open the door to let her and the others out,” he said.

James can be seen in the video frantically trying open the taxi door which seems to be stuck.

Speaking to News24, he said as he was trying to open the door, people in the taxi were jumping out of the windows.

“I struggled to open the door on the first try but didn’t give up. I then managed to open the door and quickly ran to get the fire extinguisher to help stop the fire,” added James.

After getting the extinguisher, he said he quickly put the fire out and was relieved to see everyone was out of the taxi and no one had been burnt.

“When they saw me put the fire out, my colleagues came with another extinguisher to help.

“I was just happy to see that no one had caught on fire. It would’ve been terrible to experience that.”

James said he and his colleagues offered first aid assistance to the injured while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

“Luckily, not many people suffered severe injuries, except for two people.”

He added it was essential for petrol stations and all businesses to ensure their employees received safety training.

“Every year, we get safety training where we are trained on putting out fires. It came in handy as I was able to help people who were injured in the fire.”

James started working at the filling station in 2012 and said he had never experienced an incident such as this before.

“In all the years that I have been working here, this was the first incident of this sort. I’m glad I was able to think fast and help or else it could’ve been ugly.”

One of the injured, Solomon Sepelemane Letsoalo, said he was on his way to submit important documents in Johannesburg when the incident happened.

The 27-year-old said he could not explain how scared he was.

“The taxi was coming from Alex taxi rank and headed to MTN [Noord] taxi rank when we stopped by to fill up.

“As we were sitting, preparing to go, it just caught on fire out of the blue.”

“We were all in panic mode. Everyone tried to get out of the taxi, struggling to open the door because the taxi didn’t have handles. It’s an old taxi. We were fortunate to have the petrol attendant come to our rescue.”

Letsoalo said he jumped out of the window, not even thinking about getting hurt.

“I only realised after I’d jumped out the window that the glass hurt my hands and knee. It wasn’t a bad injury, and I can still walk and do everything as I used to.”

After the fire was extinguished, Letsoalo said the driver apologised to them for what had happened, and the taxi owner’s son arrived on the scene and assured them should they need any medical assistance, they should not hesitate to call him.

“I’m grateful to be alive. Looking back at it, it was scary. I can’t explain the feeling. We were all scared for our lives.

“When I told my partner about what happened, she was scared but at the same time relieved that I wasn’t badly injured,” he added.

James’ manager, Mpfumiseni Mudalahothe, commended him for his bravery.

“Abdullah is a very helpful person. He goes out of his way to help his colleagues and the customers we serve daily.

“It’s no surprise that he was able to help the way he did when he saw the fire. I’m glad he was there to help,” said Mudalahothe.

Source | News24

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