SEATTLE – What was supposed to be a casual play date with a friend turned into a life-or-death situation Tuesday:
A West Seattle mom with two kids, trapped inside a burning car on a busy downtown street.
On Thursday, the family laughed and giggled in their friend’s living room. It’s those moments that mean the most to the Melake Family, with 3-year-old Aliana and 19-month-old Jaiden at the center of their world.
“Little by little you’ll feel better,” sings the Melake family.
Taking a break from the laughter, the Melake family took time to recall their nightmare.
On Tuesday, Semere Melake picked up their family car after it had some body work repair.
“It was less than a 10-minute drive from the auto body to the house,” Melake said. “It ran perfectly smooth.”
So mom, Tiffani Melake, loaded up the kids.
“I was going to meet a friend with the kids for a playdate in Seattle Center,” said Tiffani Melake.
But not far into the drive, she noticed a strange smell.
“I called my husband and I said, ‘the car smells like fireworks,’” said Melake.
And then she called her husband again a short while later.
“It went from just a smell to that gradual fog that comes off your windshield to the front of your car,” Melake said.
Still on the phone, Semere said he heard that has wife couldn’t breathe as billowing smoke flooded the car’s cabin.
“I was like, ‘get out of the car,’” Semere said “For me it was like get out wherever you are.”
So Tiffani flipped her car around on Mercer Avenue and stopped right in front of McCaw Hall. And her “mama bear” instincts kicked in.
“I pulled my 3-year old out and kind of threw her on the sidewalk,” Tiffani said. “And I went to get my 19-month-old and had instant panic because I couldn’t get his seat belt undone. Grabbed him out and in less than a minute the whole front of the car went up in flames.”
Firefighters rushed to the scene to battle the flames while Semere raced down the highway to his family.
“My heart started palpitating,” Semere said. “You know that’s my wife and my kids. The three most important people in my life. It’s the scariest phone call I’ve ever received in my life.”
By the time he arrived…
“The top of the engine was melted and it was all black and charred with the window busted open,” Semere said.
The car was gone, but his family was saved.
“Holding them on the sidewalk watching the car go up in flames I’m just sobbing,” said Tiffani.
Days later the memories of the car fire still haunt Tiffani.
“If I hadn’t made that choice at that time, it could’ve been completely different and that terrifies me,” said Melake.
Now they can celebrate another milestone together, safe and sound as they celebrate Aliana’s birthday on Monday.
The Melakes say their insurance company checked and there are no recalls on the car, meaning there’s no clear answer as to why the car went up in flames.