Neighbors went running to Gate City explosion site to help others

Many people in Gate City woke to rattling walls, shattering windows and screams for help. For most, the initial reaction was to get their family out of nearby apartments and away from what's been described as a tower of fire coming from a Marks Village building. But some men say they threw on shoes and ran towards the screaming.

They were awakened after 2 a.m. Tuesday to a blast.

"The flames were ten feet high. I see folks running over to get people out of the apartment complex, so I just put on my shoes," said Darrius Sigler who was staying with a friend near the explosion site.

Sigler and others went running into the blazing inferno in the middle of Marks Village.

"I heard people screaming and hollering, so I'm going to save them," said Sigler.

Neighbor Darrell Freeman was alerted to the fire by one of his children. He got them dressed and out safely before helping others. He didn't have to go far to assist victims.

"I flew out the door. Someone had collapsed in the driveway, so I helped her first and got her to safety. Then they brought her grandmother and I carried her to safety. I tried to get back over there to get other people out but police told us to stop. You could hear them screaming for help," said Freeman.

One of those people was Vantanise Goins. She and her children were one of the two families living in the building where the explosion occurred.

"I thought about my kids. I'm talking about fire so strong coming from next door. When we got to the stairs to run down to escape, the whole next door neighbor wall was blocking the stairwell," she said.

Their only exit to safety was a window.

"I had to throw some kids out the back. I had to jump out and my neighbors had to help me," she said.

Goins had some cuts. Her children had to be treated for asthma.

In all, eight people were taken to local hospitals including four children under the age of eight. All of them were released by 9 a.m. But while lives were saved, one was lost.

It still bothers Freeman,

"You have to take the chance. It shouldn't matter," he said.

Red Cross, Salvation Army, Church of the Highlands and other organizations reached out to the neighbors. Volunteers offered water, food, prayers and even teddy bears to the children.

The Housing Authority estimates people from 34 units were relocated to other apartments within the community for at least the night.

Crews continued working into the night. Alagasco worked to restore gas and check other lines while housing employees installed new windows into units that lost them during the explosion.