Playing basketball has been the most conventional route for those gifted with unusual height. But after a daring rescue that was recorded on a cell phone, being tall is to thank for averting tragedy.
Andy Mottram and Kevin Bauman’s day was off to an unassuming start. They were on their way to lunch in Hanover, New Jersey on November 27 of last year, around 12:45 pm.
That’s when they saw clouds of smoke, and a woman screaming desperately for help.
Billy & Madeline’s Red Room Tavern—in Hanover, New Jersey since 1933—caught fire in November 2017. The owners of the restaurant were inside.
Mottram and Bauman didn’t hesitate. They pulled their car over and quickly assessed the situation.
From a second floor window, they could hear Madeline Fornaro screaming for help. Billowing plumes of smoke poured from the window she would use to escape.
The two friends quickly formed a human ladder to set their rescue into motion.
Mottram, who is 6 feet 9 inches tall, told Bauman to get on his shoulders, hoisting him to the roof of the second floor. Bauman helped the 67-year-old restaurateur escape through the window and led her to safety.
Madeline was alive and in good condition, but the whereabouts of her husband Billy Fornaro, 85, were still unknown.
While Mottram and Bauman were saving Madeline from the second floor window, a former firefighter was pulling Billy out of a side door.
At the end of the recording of the rescue taken on Mottram’s phone, Madeline can be heard asking “where’s Billy?”
At that moment, Billy was wrapped in a jacket and being escorted a safe distance from the blaze. Frank DeMaio, a former firefighter, saw the fire and pulled over.
DeMaio saw Billy, dazed and losing consciousness at the foot of a ground-level door. He ushered Billy to safety, suffering slight smoke inhalation in the process.
The family dog was safely pulled from the fire as well.
Mottram, Bauman, and DeMaio were all honored by the city for the heroic actions, though each denied they were a hero.
“I kind of feel like I don’t necessarily deserve this,” Bauman said to the Daily Record. “Because the worst thing would have been to do nothing.”
Whippany Fire Chief Joseph Cortright said the men handled the most difficult aspect of firefighting before emergency crews even arrived—the rescue.
“That’s the first thing we focus on, protecting the lives of the victims inside the building. They took care of that for us,” Cortright told the Daily Record.
The fire department has found no evidence of foul play, and the building is expected to be demolished after the insurance paperwork is completed.
The tavern, in operation for 84 years, was originally opened by Billy’s parents. Billy took over operations from his parents in 1959.
There are no immediate plans to reopen the 84-year-old tavern, though Billy has expressed interest in doing so.