Video: Fla. teen thanks firefighters who pulled him from fire at age 8

Demetrius Gollett sustained burns to 50% of his body but says he glad to be alive thanks to St. Lucie County Fire Lts. Chris Longo and Steve Burns


Max Chesnes
The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — After 2 minutes of quiet anticipation, the front door of the District 15 fire station swung open. Two St. Lucie County Fire District firefighters stood on one side of the door, a 15-year-old boy on the other.

"Hey buddy," Lt. Chris Longo said, unable to stifle his beaming smile. "You're looking good."

Longo extended his arms and embraced Demetrius Gollett in a massive bear hug. Behind them, retired Lt. Steve Burns smiled and waited his turn to greet the teenager.

Almost seven years ago to the day, the three met under very different circumstances.

As an 8-year-old, Demetrius was playing a basketball video game on President's Day in 2013 in the back of his great-grandparents' Fort Pierce home.

Demetrius' great-grandfather had fallen asleep on the couch in their North 25th Street residence with a lit cigarette in hand, according to fire officials.

A fire broke out.

Burns and Longo responded to the scene, and quickly broke down a barred window on the backside of the house.

"It was chaotic," Burns said. "We could hear (Demetrius), but we couldn't see him."

After a frantic search, they found Demetrius under a pile of rubble. Burns grabbed his legs, and Longo grabbed his arms.

Unconscious and barely breathing, the 8-year-old was carried out of the fully engulfed home.

Demetrius' great-grandmother died that day and, two months later, his great-grandfather succumbed to injuries caused by the fire.

With burns covering 50% of his body, Demetrius was flown to Cincinnati, Ohio where burn unit medical staff treated injuries to his head, face and arms. He has since endured 32 surgeries, and a 33rd is scheduled for early March.

But on Friday, hugs and gratitude filled the fire station at 721 Avenue D as Demetrius reunited with the two heroes who saved his life.

"He was young and doesn't really remember when the fire happened," said his grandmother, Delores Andrew Scott. "But he wanted to meet them today and thank the firefighters that went in to get him."

Scott paused, and looked over to her grandson who was climbing into the passenger seat of a fire truck parked in the station.

Fighting back tears, she went on: "He's my inspiration."

Burns and Longo gave Demetrius a tour of the station and let him explore some of their firefighting equipment. He even tried on the very helmet Longo used on the day his life was saved.

"I'm happy that they saved me," Demetrius said, sandwiched between the two firefighters, "And I'm glad that I'm still alive."

Demetrius still wears a mask over his face, which helps with the healing, Scott said. He still travels regularly to Miami and Cincinnati to visit burn specialists.

Most of the operations are laser surgeries, Demetrius said.

Former Florida Gov. Rick Scott presented the two firefighters with Medals of Heroism, recognizing the heroes for their lifesaving efforts.

"I think it was probably the best thing that's happened in my career," Burns said of receiving the award. "It was quite an experience."

Longo said they never thought their efforts ultimately would lead to medals from the governor.

A fundraiser and banquet at the Polish American Club on Prima Vista is planned in Demetrius' honor June 7 at 5 p.m., Scott said. Without insurance, she has to pay "thousands" of her grandson's medical bills out of pocket.

"Any one of the guys that trained with us, our team ... they would have done the same exact thing," Longo said. "We just happened to be the ones that were standing right there."

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©2020 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)

 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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