Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

Autistic Boy Saves Family In House Fire, Then Tragically Dies

13 Apr 2011Have you ever thought how scary it would be in an emergency situation, like a fire? Now think about that situation while you are living with a disability. Things like that worry me all the time, how I would get out of a house if there was a fire blocking all entrances. Would I just fall out of a window and risk breaking all of my bones? Would I leave my chair behind? So many questions.

Thankfully, the closest I’ve come to being in a fire was when I was about 10, I was laying on the lounge, and noticed an orange glow in between our ceiling and the top of our fireplace’s flu... I yelled out to my mum, who on closer inspection, thought the inside of our roof was on fire. She panicked and got the hose onto the ceiling to try and put the fire out... My brother called the fire brigade, I got my dog and sped up to the top of my driveway, waiting for a dramatic outcome.

Three fire trucks later, lots of fireman, and we were told that the flu was just a bit dirty and the old leaves and things that were in the top, got so hot, that they were smouldering. There was no fire, but there could’ve been if I hadn’t alerted someone about the glowing roof.

My poor mum was so embarrassed. Living in a small town, we had nearly the whole street standing out the front of their houses, watching this flustered, single mother with no fire, who was waving goodbye to the three truck loads of fireman, who would’ve been a bit annoyed I’m sure... But, better to be safe than sorry I guess.

Sadly, I came across a story last week from the US, that didn’t end so humorously for all involved.

A 12-year-old autistic boy, Alex Swigart, smelled smoke in the middle of the night and alerted his sleeping family. Because of his quick actions, they all got out of their mobile home in Arizona, safely.

By the time the fire-fighters arrived, the home was completely engulfed in flames, and Alex’s father, Joseph, noticed that his son was missing. Joseph believes that amidst all of the chaos, his son had run back to the house in confusion.

Alex got trapped amongst the flames and his father ran to the porch which was blocked by flames, he then tried to enter the house from the side, but was stopped by authorities.

He recalls yelling out to his son and hearing Alex’s screams and hearing him call out; “Daddy, I can’t breathe”. Fire-fighters could only watch and listen to the disaster, as there was no way that anyone could’ve entered the inferno and survived.

Once the fire was put out, fire-fighters searched the rubble and found young Alex’s body huddled up against a wall, near his father’s bed. Alex was pronounced dead at the scene, and the cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

This story is a tragic reminder of what can happen to the families of autistic or intellectually disabled people. My heart aches for Alex’s poor father, who had to hear his son die, and wasn’t able to do anything to help him.

I hope the family will eventually feel proud of Alex’s actions, and remember that he died a hero. If it wasn’t for Alex waking up the household, the outcome could’ve been even more devastating.

To view the original story, click here: http://www.kgun9.com/Global/story.asp?S=14383169

The raging fire that destroyed the Swigart's home and killed their son

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