A van carrying seven children about six miles southwest of Sioux Center, Iowa started smoking and eventually burst into flames. Thanks to the heroic efforts of the children's day care provider, there were no injuries.
36-year-old Tara Dekkers said Friday was just an ordinary day as she was taking the seven children in her care to pick up her own kids from school. What happened next is hard to imagine.
Burnt scrap metal is all that's left after Dekkers' van burst into flames. Dekkers was driving the vehicle filled with seven children on 420th Avenue towards Sioux Center when she heard what sounded like a gunshot.
"We got just a little ways down the road and one the girl said, 'It stinks in here.' So I looked back and the van quickly filled with smoke. Then I saw the flames and the only thing that went through my mind was, 'I have to get the kids out,'" Dekkers said.
The children inside ranged in age from one to six. Dekkers had to get the younger kids out while telling the older ones what to do.
"There were three that could unbuckle themselves. They listened to me right away, which I was so thankful for. They got out and I just told them to run. The younger ones, you know, most of them were just... I don't think they knew what was going on," Dekkers said.
Dekkers and the seven children got to safety before the van was engulfed in flames. A passing stranger stopped to help by letting the kids in his pickup to stay warm until authorities arrived. How Dekkers acted in the face of danger impressed the Sioux County Sheriff's Office.
"We're in the process of contacting the Governor's office to recommend her for a life-saving award. So we think what she did was tremendous and a great act of courage," Sioux County Sheriff Dan Altena said.
Yet, Dekkers doesn't think she did anything special.
"I didn't do it on my own. I truly believe that God was with me that day. I truly believe he held the fire off for as long as it could. I don't think I'm a hero. I believe that anyone in my situation would have done the exact same thing," Dekkers said.
Despite the events of last Friday, Dekkers says it's business as usual at her day care this week. She is looking for a new van, but says she'll probably have to wait until after the holidays to replace it.