Teen helps siblings, mother from burning van near Frankfort
A 13-year-old boy is being hailed a hero for helping to save his family from a burning van.
The accident occurred over the weekend in Clinton County. The teenager jumped to action, ignoring his own injuries to pull his younger sisters to safety.
Still photographs show a hellish collision, with flames and black smoke shooting dozens of feet into the sky. From all that, five children escaped with injuries no more serious than some broken bones.
Four sisters praise their brother, Kaleb Siebert, for saving the family. Sitting with his arm in a sling because of a broken collarbone, Kaleb looked as his sisters coloring the patio with chalk.
"Had I not been there, my sisters might not be here right now," he said
Three-year-old Kloe Castineda and six-year-old sister Klarissa Castineda were in the burning vehicle.
"How do you feel?" Eyewitness News asked Klarissa.
"Well, a little sore," she said, rubbing a seat belt burn on her neck.
Ten-year-old Karina Castaneda looked on.
"We were both crying hard and scared," she admitted.
"I was scared," said 11-year-old Kassidy Siebert. "I didn't know if we were going to survive."
Sunday afternoon, an oncoming car hit their van head-on near Frankfort. The kids were half asleep.
"I didn't feel the impact. I didn't feel the air bag," Kaleb said. "The only thing I felt was my mom tell me to get out of the car."
Their van and the wrecked car were on fire. Karina described what happened next.
"When I opened the door, flames started coming in, but for a couple of seconds went down, so I jumped out," she said.
Kassidy jumped out, too.
Flames were spreading, their mom, 39-year-old Kian Cleefman, was out of the van, but couldn't help the two youngest girls, still trapped in the burning van.
"She was rolling on the ground on fire," Karina said.
"My mom yelled, 'Go back in and get your sisters!' I ripped off their seat belts," Kaleb continued. "I wasn't thinking, I was running on instinct."
When he ran out of the fire and smoke, Karina described, "I was really glad. I thought...going back in, he wouldn't come out."
"Everybody thinks he's a hero," Kassidy said. "So do I. If it wasn't for him, they probably wouldn't be here right now."
Kaleb, however, disagrees.
"No, I don't deserve all the glory," he insisted. "God does. He gave me the power to get them."
A family of seven is hurt and scarred, but faithful, grateful and alive.
Kian Cleefman is hospitalized with second-degree burns. Her husband, Francisco, is with her. The family expects a full recovery.
The car's driver did not survive. Tuesday, investigators identified her as 24-year-old Cassandra Luehrs of Frankfort.
The accident is still under investigation.