DeKALB COUNTY, Ga. -- Sean Casey said that he had no idea he would be rescuing a mother and baby from a burning car when he woke up on Wednesday morning. But in the later hours of the day, that's exactly what he did.
Casey was heading to the mall with his stepmother to get in some last minute pre-Thanksgiving shopping when a series of events thrust him into a situation he will never forget.
"We were on I-20 westbound before the connector and I saw a – kind of an explosion on the left-hand side of me," he said. "As the car next to me passed, I saw a vehicle just rolling down the road like a tin can."
It looked bad. Casey said he immediately pulled over.
“As I ran up to the car, it was completely engulfed in flames, umm, and the woman inside – I couldn’t see her," he said. "The whole interior was filled with smoke and she was screaming to save her baby."
Casey said she managed to get free of her seatbelt and they were able to get her out of the car.
"She was very small or else the adrenaline was working," he said.
Soon, more people arrived but as flames and smoke spread, the clock was ticking to save the only remaining victim in the wreckage - a small baby. Casey said that's when he and others began scaling the back of the upturned SUV. From the exhaust to the wheel and finally onto the passenger side of the wreckage - now facing up.
He said another man at the scene began slamming his fist on the window trying to get in - the door was locked. Casey said the man ultimately may have actually broken his hand, but they managed to shatter the window glass. And from there Casey went in.
"I jumped down, ah, into the car and I could hear the baby crying but," he said. "You know, ... if you can imagine all of the things that are in your car just being tossed around, the baby was completely buried strollers, purses, and chairs."
He said it wasn't hot inside, but the smoke was choking him as he searched. Then he saw something.
"I pulled a few things off and saw the baby's arm," he said.
He said her seat had fallen down between seats in the wreckage. The child was still buckled into the child seat. It was miraculous - she was alive - not happy - but uninjured.
"People are yelling to get out of the car, get out of the car," he said. "And I handed her up like a little football."
Whatever happened in the moments that followed were unclear. Casey said he doesn't know how he got out. But noticed at some point that he was missing something.
"I didn’t have any shoes on so I don’t know what happened there," he said.
The child and mother had only suffered a few scrapes but otherwise appeared to be unharmed. Others also began arriving at the scene and helping where they could. Casey said he even remembered seeing a doctor stop to help. Police and other emergency responders arrived as well. And an off-duty officer pulled over to help put out the flames with a portable fire extinguisher.
It's because of all those people - and the man that seriously hurt his own hand trying to help that Casey said he won't accept the title of hero.
"There’s a lot of people there that showed up that were at the right spot at the time," he said. "So, I don’t like that word very much. I would hope that, you know, if my family were in the same situation that somebody would stop and help them, too.”
Casey said he never spoke with the woman after the moment had passed, he ultimately left, but not before turning around to snap a picture - one he would later post on Facebook telling the story of the day he had.
He and his stepmother ultimately made that trip to the mall and he got a replacement pair of shoes. And, wherever that woman and child are now, he has a simple message.
"I hope you're OK and I'm happy I was there to help."