RALEIGH – A
routine patching operation turned into a harrowing rescue effort last week for
three N.C. Department of Transportation workers, who are being credited with
saving the lives of a McDowell County family when their house caught on
Friday, June 21, started out as a typical summer day on the
job for Ricky Bradley, Jason Ray and Chris Painter. The men were patching
asphalt on Lucky Street in Marion while two young residents of a nearby house
watched them work from the front porch. Just as they were packing up to leave,
the workers and the residents noticed smoke coming from the house. The men
quickly took action.
“When we opened the door, black smoke just blew out,” said
Painter dialed 911 while Bradley grabbed a fire extinguisher
from the truck. Meanwhile, Bradley and Ray learned from one of the residents
who had been sitting on the porch that two other residents – a father, later
identified as Paul May, and his son – were still inside, asleep in a back
Bradley and Ray tried to wake the father and son by banging
on windows. When they got no response, they busted out the window with the fire
extinguisher and pulled the son, then the father, to safety.
Painter credits Bradley and Ray with doing “the heaviest
work – knocking out the window and getting the people out of there.” Bradley
also noticed a propane tank attached to the house and instructed one of the
residents to turn it off, likely preventing further, and even catastrophic,
The heroic actions of the NCDOT employees have been much
lauded locally. J.E. Neal III, chief of the City of Marion Fire Department,
wrote in a letter to NCDOT, “I am convinced that Jason and Ricky saved the
lives of Mr. Robinson and his son,” and said additionally, “Chris Painter’s
actions prevented another resident from either seriously injuring herself or
possibly being killed by re-entering the burning building.” Their story also
attracted the attention of The McDowell News, which ran feature articles
on the rescue.
The men have been quick to point out that they feel any one
of their fellow NCDOT workers would have acted in the same manner.
“We work with a great group of guys here, and we are
confident that anybody who would have been in our situation would have done the
same thing. We’re just good old country boys, and if someone is needing help,
that’s just what we do,” Painter said.
The rescue was performed through a combination of quick
thinking, being in the right place at the right time….and maybe something more.
Ray noted that the crew of three men wouldn’t normally have all been working
together – they just happened to split off into a team that day. “We feel like
we were put together for a reason,” Ray said.
Painter pointed out something else – the road the men were
patching that day is called Lucky Street. And for one family, that name has
taken on a new meaning.
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