NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Joshua Harris has used a wheelchair ever since an accident left him paralyzed seven years ago, and last Friday, he survived another potentially deadly situation when his wheelchair-accessible van went up in flames while he was still inside.
“I was panicked,” Harris said.
Harris was on his way to his son’s school for his field day when he noticed what he thought was steam coming from his van as his driver pulled into the lot.
Luckily, his caregiver, Leslie Chrismon, smelled the smoke. She raced against time to convince Harris to get out of the van before the battery on his hydraulic chair lift caught fire.
“I was literally scared to death,” Harris said. “If the battery would have exploded before I got out of the van, I would have been trapped in there.”
“As soon as I got him out, that’s when we saw the smoke thickening, and within seconds we heard something blow up,” Chrismon said. “I’m not sure if it was the radiator or the battery, but something blew up.”
The two got away from the van and felt helpless watching it burn.
“If she wasn’t there, if she wasn’t able to get me out in time, there was no one else around the vehicle that could have, so I definitely would have died,” Harris said.
| READ MORE | Latest headlines from Nashville and Davidson County
Harris rides in his wheelchair-accessible van with a hydraulic chair lift to go to doctors’ appointments and his children’s activities. Since it caught fire, he has been left with no form of transportation.
“He is confined to his chair, so at least him being able to get out, I feel like that’s a part of his life as well,” Chrismon said. “Just being able to see the trees riding down the street.”
The Harpeth Valley community started a GoFundMe to buy Harris another van since insurance will only cover a portion of what the new van costs.
While Harris said he is grateful for the support, he is also thankful to be alive.
“By the grace of God I got out,” Harris said.
Harris and Chrismon have not been able to determine the cause of the fire yet.