Trapped under Burning Truck, Dad Knows He’s Going to Die. That’s When the Door Opens


They say superhuman strength will often make an appearance during extreme life-and-death situations. The ability to display strength beyond normal human means is not common, but it has been known to occur in desperate times.

That’s exactly what happened for one petite 19-year-old from Virginia when her father’s life was on the line. Now she’s being hailed a hero.

Charlotte Heffelmire’s father, Eric Heffelmire, was working on his GMC truck inside the garage of their home on Nov. 28, 2015. That’s when the jack slipped, causing the truck to fall and spill gasoline. Then he heard a sound no one wants to hear: an explosion.

A fire ignited and her father was trapped underneath the vehicle. Charlotte, who is 5-foot-6-inches tall and weighs 120 pounds, was on Thanksgiving break from school and came into the garage to see the truck was on fire.

“I guess he was in the garage for about 10 minutes before I really just stumbled on him,” said Charlotte. “I couldn’t hear anything. [I] kind of came into the garage and the garage was already on fire and really from there I kind of snapped into whatever super mode I had at that point and kind of do what I had to do.”

The U.S. Air Force Academy student was able to lift the truck not once but twice in order to free her father. “I thought they’d be pulling out a dead body later in the evening,” said Eric.

Once her dad was free, Charlotte climbed into the burning truck and drove it out of the garage on just three wheels. “I didn’t want the entire house to explode with the truck, so I started the truck, put it [in] four wheel drive and just mashed on it with three wheels and just drove out,” said Charlotte. “It left a nice groove on the asphalt.”

She closed the garage doors to help contain the fire then went back into the home to get everybody out, including her sister’s baby. After calling 911, Charlotte attempted to put out the fire on her own with a hose, according to the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department.

Charlotte was barefoot at the time she came upon her father and her feet were burned during the heroic act, keeping her from returning to the academy for sometime until she was fully healed.

For her bravery, the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department gave Charlotte a Citizen Life Saving Award, however, the teen doesn’t view herself as a hero. “I just did what I had to do…”

Her father, on the other hand, thinks she deserves that “and much more.” As Shakespeare wrote, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” Thank you, Charlotte, for your bravery and courage!

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