Man ‘blocked bid to save kids from burning car’

Christina Campbell and daughter Caitlin Bernard. Picture: contributed
Christina Campbell and daughter Caitlin Bernard. Picture: contributed
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A mother has spoken of her anger after a pedestrian hindered her attempts to rescue four children from her burning car.

Christina Campbell, 38, was forced to pull into the exit of a car park after she noticed smoke coming from under the bonnet of her Vauxhall Zafira in North Berwick on Tuesday morning.

The childminder had her daughter, Caitlin Bernard, nine, an eight-year-old boy and twin one-year-old boys in the car but said she had to “bully” a man to get out of her way after he stopped her for making the “illegal” manoeuvre.

“We were travelling through North Berwick and I’d stopped to send a text to a parent,” she said. “The car windows were open when the smoke came into the car and I thought it was coming from some builders, but before I got ten metres up the road I realised it was coming from under the car.

“I drove to the car park and the nearest entrance was ‘out’ and a man blocked me saying ‘You are not getting in here, it’s the exit’.

“All I could scream was ‘Get out the way – my car’s on fire!’

“I had to bully him out the way and get all the kids out.”

As Ms Campbell tried frantically to get the children out of the burning car the man came over, but instead of helping continued to lecture her.

“I thought the car might blow but the old man that blocked my way came up to the window as I was trying to get the second baby out and he started having another go at me,” she said.

“He said ‘I’m going to the police because you came in the wrong way’. It’s not as if he could not see it was an emergency situation.”

She was eventually helped by East Lothian Council worker John Stevens, who called 999 before firefighters managed to put out the fire.

But it appears he was not the only hero of the day, with Ms Campbell praising the older children, especially Caitlin, who didn’t hesitate to help her mum with the babies and even managed to recover the buggy out of the boot.

And after safely returning home with partner Ralph Bernard, 37, Ms Campbell made sure the children were rewarded with bravery certificates.

“I made them as something for them to focus on and they’re going to take them into school assembly,” she said. “They are really resilient children.”

Police confirmed the incident was not being treated as suspicious, with an electrical fault believed to be the cause.

But despite the drama, the childminder, who has been in the job 11 years, said it has not put her off driving and she will be going shopping for a new car this weekend.

Ms Campbell added: “When you think of an emergency situation you always worry you’ll be in a blind panic, but we all did what we had to do under those circumstances.”