“There were several people milling around and I remember seeing the flames and wondering if they were cooking out,” 49-year-old Ellis Bruce said recalling the events of November 18.
Bruce and 22-year-old Nacolius Ward were coming back from a trip across the bridge to Tunica, Miss to enjoy a little tennis. They were unaware they were just minutes away from the scene of a fiery automobile crash.
According to WMCTV Channel 5 news, the pair came across what is now considered to be the worst accident volunteer firefighter Gerald Clayon ever worked in Coahoma County.
According to Bruce, Dale and Tina Gansman were traveling in their van going home to Olive Branch when a Grand Prix slammed into the side of the their vehicle, at the intersection of Mississippi Highway 1 and U.S. 49. Ward and Bruce got out their vehicle to see what had happened and found the Gansman's vehicle first. “Mr. Gansman may have been thrown from the vehicle, or he got out. I don't know but he couldn't walk,” recalled Bruce.
Bruce added that he remembered Mrs. Gansman was trapped inside the car.
“Her face was bloody and she couldn't move. She asked us to help,” said Bruce. Ward and Bruce were able to rescue the Gansmans quickly. They proceeded toward the other vehicle to see if there was anything they could do to help but were told not too get close to the car because it might explode.
“We didn't know whether there were children in the vehicle at the time or if anyone was alive,” explained Ward.
Bruce asked the bystanders if anyone had called 911 and if anyone knew if there was anybody trapped inside. About that time, moans were heard coming from the backseat. Flames were increasing as more bystanders gathered but no one responded to the victims still trapped in the soon to be inferno.
Bruce hollered at someone with a flashlight to see where the gas tank was and found that the tank was hanging upside down in front of the axel and feeding fuel to the growing flames.
“There was no noise, no screaming just moans from the children in the backseat,” recalled Ward.
Without hesitation, Bruce opened the door and saw Kiera Trailor, who was caught, her leg injured and jammed between the seat and the top of the vehicle.
“I pulled on her but I could not get her loose,” said Bruce. “I grabbed on one of the boys and dragged him a couple feet from the wreckage and then Ward or I grabbed another one and we both freed Kiera.”
Ward stated that after they pulled Kiera out and got her to safety, they turned around to see if there was anyone else they could get out. By now the car was engulfed in flames.
Page 2 of 2 - “Looking back I remember thinking that I could act but fast forwarding and seeing the car go up in flames, it was like only a matter of seconds,” Ward recalled.
Sadly not everyone was rescued from the accident. Kanika Trailor, Tonya Murray and Willie Lewis perished in the fiery car crash. All survivors were airlifted to the Med in Memphis where they received treatment for their injuries. The Gansmans have since returned home and were to begin physical therapy this week. Kiera and Cedric are recovering now at home with their mother and father and aunts.
“Kylan was is currently in what we believe to be a medically induced coma,” reported Bruce, “and is expected to recover.”
Bruce and Ward believe now that they were placed in the right place at the right time. They said they wouldn't second-guess their actions to help someone in need.
“Once we heard the moans, we knew we had to act,” said Bruce. “It's unfortunate that three people lost their lives but we were glad to have been able to save as many as we could.”
Ward agreed stating that a higher power provided him with the opportunity to help others in their time of need.
“If the Marvell's gates hadn't been locked and we hadn't called it an early night we might not have crossed paths with these extraordinary people that will forever hold a place in our hearts,” said Bruce.
Despite the tragic losses, all parties continue to heal and Bruce and Ward believe that they aren't heroes – just citizens that choose to love their neighbor and cherish every waking moment of life with others that probably would have done the same for them.