A Georgia man is being hailed as a hero after breaking the fall of at least six people who were jumping from the top floor of a burning apartment complex, catching them with his bare arms. Among those he rescued were a newborn baby and a pregnant woman.
William Cox had just dropped off his son when he noticed smoke billowing out of Fairington Village Apartments in Stonecrest. He realized the building was on fire but didn’t see anyone fleeing the scene.
“I walked down and I don’t see anyone running out of the building,” he told KHOU11 on Dec. 12. “So, I’m screaming, ‘Please, the building is on fire. If you’re in there, get out.’”
When people heard his warning, they tried to flee the building. However, the fire had already grown out of control and blocked off the exits.
Presented with no other choice, people started leaping out of the second- and third-story windows.
Watching from below, William realized he had to help.
“They just started throwing me their children,” he said.
Luckily, he didn’t think twice, and just started catching people and children as they were ejected from the building.
“My adrenaline was just rushing,” William said. “I just wanted to get everyone out the building.”
Among those he caught were a newborn baby and a pregnant woman. Without his heroic actions, the situation might’ve been far worse.
“The third floor, the apartment was on fire,” William told ABC. “They had to jump out. [It was] the only way they could’ve survived. So I was just sitting there catching them and they knocking me down, but I keep getting back up to catch them.”
Erika Burns, a mother of three, said that once she realized how bad the fire was, she couldn’t think of anything other than getting her family out of the building.
“I lifted the window up, and then I just started tossing my kids out,” she said. “Then, once I got my kids out, I got my mother out.”
She added that it was an experience she never wants to repeat.
“I couldn’t think, especially once I saw the flames. It was crazy. I never experienced anything like this in my life,” Burns said.
Seven people escaped the burning building by leaping from the third story, and William caught at least six of them. A total of 18 people were injured, with 17 being transported to the hospital once first responders arrived.
According to firefighters, the flames rose 25 feet above the apartment building at one point. The fire was so hot, it melted the wall of a building next door.
“This isn’t an everyday occurrence,” said Captain Dion Bently with the DeKalb County Fire Department. “The amount of people that were extricating and jumping out of the building, that part isn’t very common.”
DeKalb Fire Rescue also thanked William on their Facebook page for his bravery in the situation. The department is still investigating the cause of the fire.
“I was just relieved that nobody was killed,” William said.
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