First responders have been trained to stay calm under extreme pressure when split-second decisions can mean the difference between life and death.
Regular people, on the other hand, often panic in emergency situations. Yet when 1 Irish man realized 3 kids were trapped inside a burning home, he bravely tried to save them. Without the proper training, however, he had no idea how to do it. But in the heat of the moment, he did manage to do something that saved everyone…
When 47-year-old Peter O’Neill woke up on the morning of April 30, 2018, he expected it to be a typical day of working renovating a house on Main Street in New Ross, which is a town in the county of Wexford in Ireland. And for most of the day, it was a completely normal day.
A Red Flag
However, at around 3:30 that afternoon, Peter noticed a strong smell of smoke. At first he wondered if the home that was being renovated had caught fire, but as he looked around he didn’t see any trace of a fire. It wasn’t until he looked out the window that he realized where the smoke was coming from…
Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire
“It was around half three and I could smell smoke, so I just put my head out of a window on the second floor and I could see smoke billowing out from the house next door,” Peter said. The house next door had caught fire and the flames were quickly growing.
A Chilling Realization
As if the situation wasn’t bad enough, Peter started hearing what sounded like screaming children. In that moment, he knew he was going to have to do something to save them since it didn’t look like they could get downstairs and out of the house…
The First Instinct
“I rang 999 straight away, I could hear children crying, I went out the back and I see two of the kids at the third story window, they were getting sick and crying,” Peter said. “I heard another cry from the background and I knew there was another child in there.”
A Heroic Reaction
Peter estimated that there were 3 children in the home, but when 1 of the screams suddenly stopped, he knew he couldn’t just wait for help to arrive. ”That cry was getting a lot fainter and then it just stopped,” said Peter, who ran out of the house he had been working on, and over to the house next door…
Attempting To Help
Even though Peter had never received training for an emergency situation like this, he knew the children were going to die and he couldn’t sit back and do nothing. “I tried to get in one of the windows but it was so intense, I was overcome by smoke and I had to turn back around,” Peter explained.
7 Minutes Later
Peter tried his best to rescue the kids, but he he didn’t have the training or the equipment needed to deal with such a strong fire. Thankfully, however, he remembered to call the police to report the fire. Within a few minutes, first responders arrived at the home and got to work…
To The Rescue
“The fire services arrived really quickly, they had their ladders and I brought them around the back and was able to show them where the kids were,” Peter said about the firemen from the New Ross Fire Service that arrived at the scene 7 minutes after he called for help.
Leading The Way
“The fire service came and I brought them around the back and they could see the kids hanging out the back window and I was able to point them to the window where the other kid was, I’d say he was only about three years of age,” Peter added…
The First Rescue
The firefighters used ladders to climb up to a window on the home’s 3rd floor where they were able to pull a 9-year-old, a 7-year-old, and their father out. While bringing them down, the 9-year-old told the crew that his younger brother was still inside the home in his bedroom.
No Time To Waste
Meanwhile, a firefighter had already busted through the front door and ran up the staircase, which was on fire. Once on the 2nd level, the firefighter heard the 3-year-old’s coughs and found him lying on the floor next to his bed. Thankfully, the brave fireman got to him before it was too late…
“He was unresponsive but they started doing CPR and managed to bring him back around,” Peter said. As paramedics worked on the 3-year-old, the crew was fighting to put out the fire and administering oxygen to Peter, the 2 older boys, and their father.
The Situation Intensifies
All of the family members were rushed away in ambulances to the University Hospital Waterford, and on the way, the 3-year-old took a turn for the worse. Thankfully, however, emergency room doctors managed to stabilise him as well as treat his older brothers and father…
“When the fire service came it was just bang, bang, bang and they managed to get everything done,” said Peter, who was also impressed with the firefighter’s quick action since they are technically retained firefighters, which mean they have full-time jobs in addition to their work with the fire department.
“I’d never seen anything like it before and I don’t think they’re appreciated enough, it could have been three hearses instead of three ambulances there if they hadn’t acted so fast,” said Peter. “I had never been through anything like that before and I never want to experience anything like that again – it was a horrible experience…”
Like the family that was rescued, Peter was also sent to the hospital to be evaluated for smoke inhalation. According to Peter, however, the experience had a bigger impact on his emotions than his body. “It affected my head more than my health really – for a few days I just couldn’t sleep thinking about what happened and what could have happened,” Peter said.
An Investigation Begins
“It could have been an absolute tragedy, it could have been a lot different. It wasn’t a nice scene but it turned out well thankfully,” the 47-year-old builder added. While the 3 boys and their father were in the hospital, firefighters started investigating the home to see what caused the fire, which completely destroyed the structure…
An Ideal Outcome
According to Chief Fire Officer Paul L’Estrange, the fire broke out under the staircase of the 3-story home, which belonged to a Polish family of 7. So far, officials don’t know how the fire started, but they’re just glad the family members who were home at the time when it started are all expected to be fine.
Making A Difference
“The fire fighters of New Ross deserve the highest thanks and praise. Because of them the lives of three kids were saved. That is the real positive outcome of this story. There was an extremely good job of work done and they made a difference when it mattered most,” Chief L’Estrange said.