Young man, 18, saves mother, three children trapped inside burning car

WATERBURY, Conn. (WFSB) - An 18-year-old man from Connecticut was honored as a hero after police say he prevented tragedy by rescuing a family of four from their burning car.

Justin Gavin, 18, was walking down the street Wednesday in Waterbury, Connecticut, when a flaming car rolled to a stop. A young woman was driving with three kids in the back seat, the youngest of whom was just 1 year old.

Hours after saving a family of four from a burning car, 18-year-old Justin Gavin received a challenge coin, one of the city’s highest honors, from the police chief.
Hours after saving a family of four from a burning car, 18-year-old Justin Gavin received a challenge coin, one of the city’s highest honors, from the police chief. (Source: Justin Gavin, WFSB via CNN)

Gavin was smart enough to be terrified but rushed to help anyway.

“Life is too short, so, I just thought if that was me in that situation, I would want someone to help me. So, I definitely did what I can do,” he said.

Even as the flames grew, Gavin pulled all three children out of the car to safety and helped the driver get out, too.

“I was scared 'cause I didn’t know whether the car was gonna blow up at that instant. I grabbed the baby and the two little girls out of the car, and I helped her out the car,” he said.

The driver told police the 18-year-old saved all four of their lives.

Hours after the dramatic rescue, Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo presented Gavin with a challenge coin, one of the city’s highest honors.

“It’s just to acknowledge this heroic act that you conducted today and just a token of my appreciation for you being a great member of this community. I appreciate it. Thank you very much,” Spagnolo said.

Spagnolo also said he hopes the coin reminds Gavin of this heroic day and allows him to reflect on all of the good that came out of it, including saving a family of four.

“It symbolizes bravery and courage, and the police chief told me whenever I feel like I need some courage or to feel some type of way, like brave… always look back at the coin and think of that day,” Gavin said.

September 9th 2020 - Chief Fernando Spagnolo thanks Justin Gavin (age 18) for helping to save a mother and her three children from a burning car. Great job Justin!

Posted by Waterbury Police Department on Wednesday, September 9, 2020

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