A family outing to see Christmas lights in Muskogee's historic Honor Heights Park took what could have been a tragic turn, according to an eyewitness.
Tavia Fuller Armstrong, a writer from Tahlequah, said her family was traveling through the Garden of Lights Tour on Saturday evening when they began to smell smoke.
"Most of the way down the hill we were smelling an odor," Fuller Armstrong said.
At first, she thought it was just burn-off from her van's engine after recent repairs.
"That's when I realized that something was really wrong," she said.
Another vehicle, carrying three elderly women and two children, was about to become a ball of fire.
"I was literally seconds away from trying to get their attention, but it burst into flames," she said.
Fuller Armstrong wrote about her frightening experience and posted it to the Web:
"When I saw the flames flare up from underneath the car, I jumped out of my van and ran forward screaming at the people to get out. Men passed me, running straight to the car to help the occupants escape. After everyone was safely out, I talked with the Henryetta, Oklahoma family, several of whom made the trip in other vehicles, as the car continued to burn and emergency personnel arrived on the scene.
Five people, including two young children and three older ladies, were in the car that caught fire. Both the children escaped the vehicle unharmed. Esperanza Sharp, also escaped. She told me she could smell the smoke and feel heat coming through the air vents moments before the car caught fire, but they didn't know they were in danger.
Sarah Patterson, age 94, and Lucy Alford, a disabled woman who depended on a walker, were not so fortunate. Thankfully, with the help of Good Samaritans, they also managed to escape the burning vehicle and were transported to the hospital."
Fuller Armstrong told News On 6 that if it hadn't been for fast-acting witnesses like Chris Eischen, things could have turned out very differently.
"He was a hero," she said.
A family member of the victims said Patterson suffered first-degree burns and another passenger has minor burns on her hands. A 12-year-old passenger sprained her ankle trying to escape.
The victims received treatment in the emergency room and were released on Sunday morning.