TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Heart-stopping video shows the frantic moment deputies rescued a 9-year-old boy from a raging house fire in Florida.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office was the first agency to respond to the blaze, which broke out at a home in Seffner, just outside of Tampa, around 10:45 p.m. About 75% of the home was on fire along with the detached garage, according to the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.
Karen McGinnis, the mother of 9-year-old Owen Ares, said she could hear son calling for help as she tried to break a bedroom window with a chair. “I couldn’t get him,” said McGinnis, recalling the frustrating, traumatizing event. “I couldn’t get the chair through the window last night. And I tried so hard and the deputies finally came and got it.”
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office released nearly six minutes of body-camera footage which shows Deputy Kevin Reich and Deputy Alexander Maldonado rush to the boy’s bedroom window as his mother screams for help. McGinnis said someone pulled her away from the blazing home, at which point all she could do was pray. “All I could do was say … please God don’t take away our son right now. Please, give him back to us,” she said. In the video, a deputy can be seen using a battering ram to smash the glass while McGinnis helps them clear a path out the window.
The deputies instructed Owen to follow the light from their flashlights and come as close to the window as possible, but the child was unable to make it out. The deputies made several more attempts to get to the child by smashing more windows and trying to knock down a door. They eventually returned to the boy’s window and were able to grab the child and pull him to safety.
Paramedics arrived and rushed the boy to Tampa General Hospital to be treated for burns and smoke inhalation. He was in serious condition Friday morning. “If it wasn’t for them, my son would be dead,” said Chris Ares, Owen’s father, as he choked back tears.
McGinnis said Owen’s injuries weren’t as as severe as they thought, but he did have second-degree burns on his face. The bigger concern is smoke inhalation, but Owen’s father said his son could be off the ventilator by Tuesday. McGinnis and her boyfriend Roy Vaughn also suffered injuries and were taken to Tampa General for medical care, authorities said. Vaughn was still being treated at Tampa General for a heart condition.
According to McGinnis, Vaughn was the first person who spotted the barn fire after he woke up from a nap. He was the one who told her to call 911. “Had it not been for that angel, whoever that was, that tapped Roy, we would be having a very different conversation right now,” she said.
Sheriff Chad Chronister praised the Hillsborough County deputies for their work and bravery. “It is because of their heroism that this young boy made it out alive,” said Sheriff Chronister. “Law enforcement officers are often the first to respond to any emergency scene, so we must always be ready to jump in and help. These deputies never hesitated. They are true examples of what it means to be a hero.”
McGinnis thanked the community for their support as her family recovers from losing their home and, nearly, their son’s life. “I’m just very grateful that we are alive,” she said. “Owen is alive. We are going to recover from this with the help from all of you.”
McGinnis owns a store in Seffner called Florida Farmhouse Market, which will be open Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friends hope to raise donations to support the family after the devastating blaze.