As family fled burning car, people were 'only interested in filming'

The only thing missing was a bag of popcorn, victim says

Video: Mark Zammit Cordina

A woman who yesterday found herself in a burning car with her 10-month-old baby has expressed disappointment at bystanders who she said were more interested in filming the fire than lending a hand. 

"The only thing ... needed to complete the scene was a bag of popcorn," Nancy May Gerry wrote in a post on Facebook group The Salott. "You could have at least offered us help instead of staying there enjoying the accident!"

Mrs Gerry, her father and infant child were forced to evacuate their vehicle while driving along Old College Street in Sliema yesterday after it burst into flames. Nobody was hurt.

"The car just stopped right on the hill," she told Times of Malta. "Within a second, black smoke started rising up the sides of the car's bonnet."    

Her father quickly picked up his baby grandson while Mrs Gerry collected personal items. "Then I ran out and as far away as I could," she recalled. "Our only concern at that point was ensuring my son was safe."    

While Mrs Gerry was full of praise for the many people who would go on to attend to her and her family (see below), she was struck by the apparent indifference of many bystanders. 

"I was out of breath, carrying my baby in the carseat, a pushchair and two baby bags while walking as fast as I could away from the fumes," she recalled.

"Everybody could see this but no one helped me except the store assistant. The others were either filming or honking their horns."

One stranger, however, went the extra mile, she recalled.

"A man with a fire extinguisher in his hand ran over before fire trucks arrived and tried to put out the flames. He really risked his life." 

Two women caught in traffic behind the burning car also offered Mrs Gerry help, she said. "They saw me on the pavement carrying all my things and came over," she said. "Of all the traffic, they were the only two to offer help." 

The car caught fire at around 3.30pm. Photo: Daniel CamilleriThe car caught fire at around 3.30pm. Photo: Daniel Camilleri

With smartphones and social media use growing exponentially over the past years, police forces around the world have expressed concerns about citizens opting to film crimes and accidents rather than offering help.

In January, UK police criticised people who stood by and took photos instead of helping two women trapped in a car that was crushed by a falling tree. Last July, a man in Ohio, USA was arrested after rushing to the scene of a fatal car crash and filming two dying teenage boys without offering to help. 

Mrs Gerry also took issue with the fact that schoolchildren were "bouncing around as if it was a bbq" while firefighters put out the flames, asking "what if the car [had] exploded?". She also highlighted other drivers' impatience and lack of consideration. 

"The smoke could be seen from far far away but still cars were breaking glasses with their horns," she wrote, adding that a "middle-aged expert driving a van" kept shouting and insisting the smoke was nothing but an overheated radiator. 

"Good job we didn’t follow your selfish suggestion because I would have ended up losing my dad," she noted. 

The kindness of strangers

But inconsiderate drivers and smartphone-wielding bystanders could not distract Mrs Gerry from recognising the help and kindness she, her father and infant were offered in the aftermath of the accident. 

Staff at a nearby convenience store offered the family drinks and support, ambulance staff entertained the baby and hospital staff were visibly concerned about their wellbeing, Mrs Gerry wrote.  

"We are foreigners for you but you still felt for us," she wrote, adding words of gratitude for the "doctor from Kenya" who examined her and her father, firefighters and police officers on the scene. 



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