ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Jennifer Emo says she didn’t have time to think when she saw the toddler in the back seat of a burning car — she reached through the flames and grabbed her.
The fiery rescue happened August 26th, late morning on Interstate 70 near O’Fallon, Missouri.
Emo, along with her husband, Brett, and twin daughters, had their picnic basket packed and were driving to St. Charles to celebrate a relative’s 90th birthday. Then a car up ahead caught fire and pulled over.
The family parked in front of the burning vehicle on the shoulder, and Emo ran with her husband toward the car to help.
They saw two adults and a young boy standing outside the blazing car – it was two grandparents with their 8-year-old grandson who got out in time.
“I asked if anybody was still inside, and to my recollection the grandfather said, ‘There’s a baby inside!'”
Emo says the grandmother had tried to unbuckle the 2-year-old girl from the car seat, but in the flames had only managed to unbuckle the top part of the five-part harness. The grandparents suffered third-degree burns in the fire.
Emo ran around to the side of the car where the car seat was, and saw the child was no longer in the seat. She was standing on the floorboard behind the driver’s seat surrounded by flames.
“I saw her. I saw her in a split second and to me, it was a no-brainer, because I could see her and I grabbed her,” Emo said. “The flames were blowing in my face, and the smoke was everywhere. The fire should’ve burned me and it didn’t. I mean, it didn’t even burn the hair off my arms. That’s crazy.”
Emo believes her mother and stepmother, who both died in 2015, were protecting her from the flames so she could rescue the child.
Wearing white bandages around her hands, Emo says she suffered only minor burns when she ran away from the car holding the girl, whose clothes were burning. Behind her she could hear the car’s gas tank erupting in flames. She put the girl in the grass to pat out her clothing, and a helicopter rushed her to Mercy Hospital.
The girl — 2-year-old Paisley Ervin — is listed in critical condition, but stable, with third and fourth degree burns covering 70 percent of her body.
The girl’s 8-year old brother was not hurt.
Emo says she has hopes of someday attending the girl’s high school graduation.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol says a piece of metal that fell from a tractor-trailer had lodged underneath the car, sparking the fire.