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Trapped in black smoke

Montville— Police officers Kenny Stuart and Lindsey Michaels were nearing the end of their day shift on Nov. 19 when a fire call came in at 4:29 p.m.

"Structure fire at Village Apartments, a child trapped inside..."

Stuart and Michaels drove to the Jerome Road apartment complex and were met by Lt. Dave Radford.

Radford said the maintenance man directed them toward the rear of one of the apartment buildings. That's when they noticed the head of a 10-year-old boy sticking out from the second-floor window.  

"It was like the scene of a movie," said Radford. "He had opened a hole in the screen of the window so he could stick his head out. Black smoke was pouring out around him."

The three officers, who recounted the incident to The Day last week, had to act quickly.

They climbed the stairs to the second floor. Radford kicked in  the door of the apartment and was met with a "huge cloud of smoke."

Michaels said she was the only one with a flashlight and got on the floor to get below the growing cloud of smoke. Lying in the entry of the hallway, Michaels said she could see a few flames in the kitchen area but not much else through the "black and thick" smoke.

Flashing her light, she called out to the boy and asked him to crawl towards the light. The child did not budge.

Suddenly, someone came running past her, straight into the smoke and towards the child.

Meanwhile, unable to see past the smoke, Stuart and Radford went back outside toward the back of the apartment.

Stuart got into his cruiser and pulled it against the building and underneath the window where the boy was.

Stuart and Radford then stood on the roof of the cruiser. Stuart ripped off the screen and grabbed the boy's arms. From the inside, the maintenance man, who had run past Michaels, helped lowered the boy down to the two officers.

The boy was rushed to Backus Hospital in Norwich, where he treated for minor smoke inhalation.

"It was pretty surreal," said Stuart. "The timing of it all — Officer Michaels and I were on our way to leave for the day when the call came in. Two or three minutes later and who knows what could've happened to the kid."

Radford said rescuing the young boy was rewarding and a good way to end the week.

Fire Marshal Paul Barnes said firefighters arrived as the officers were taking the boy out of the window. All of the town's fire departments responded — Montville, Mohegan, Oakdale, Chesterfield and Mohegan Tribe.

Barnes said it appears the fire began in the kitchen as the boy, who was home alone, was preparing food in the microwave when it caught on fire and he threw it in the trash.

"There was minor fire damage in the kitchen," he said. "The entire apartment suffered smoke damage and became unliveable."

The family could not be reached to comment.

On the night of the incident, three Red Cross representatives responded to the fire and assisted four families, with a total of six adults and three children, living near the damaged apartment. They were placed at local motels.

Stuart said it was the second time the three officers had helped someone in a life-threatening situation in a month. At the end of October, the same officers and Sgt. Michael Pierce were also the first to arrive at a motor vehicle crash where an 18-year-old man was seriously injured and trapped in his car. They applied pressure to a neck wound until the fire department could arrive to free him from the car.



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