CORNWALL, Ontario – It was high drama during a late-night fire Monday on Larin Avenue in Cornwall that saw a woman hang her infant son from a second-storey window, before leaping to the ground to escape the flames.
The fire has left Michaela Gauthier and her son Riley with nothing.
They escaped the flames after some local men heard screams from the burning apartment complex and rushed in to help.
Gauthier had to literally hang her infant son from a second-storey window into the waiting arms of passerby Cameron Bennett, who grabbed him and kept him safe.
This was after her friend, Lark Mole, had jumped from the second storey, severely injuring her knee in the process.
“We were just sitting on the couch talking and I could smell smoke,” said Gauthier. “I went into the kitchen and saw flames at my door.”
Gauthier said with access to the front door blocked, the apartment began to fill with thick acrid smoke.
“Panic-mode kicked in,” she said.
After Mole jumped from the window Gauthier hung her son outside to keep his tiny lungs away from the smoke. At first she wasn’t even sure help was out there.
But mercifully help was reaching up to save mother and son.
“Cameron was there, and he was telling me everything was going to be ok,” she said.
Bennett, his friend Zach Avery and Cory Dwyer helped usher Gauthier and her son from the house while it was on fire.
“This guy (Dwyer) helped boost me up on to the roof above the front door,” said Bennett. “She had her baby out the window, because of the smoke. I had to lean up and I grabbed the baby.
“I was trying to help her, but she was really freaking out.”
Dwyer, a city employee, was making the rounds for some municipally-owned parks when he saw the fire raging and heard screams.
“When I first got there she was telling me she was going to drop the baby down to me, but I told her not to do that,” said Dwyer, who then happened upon Bennett and Avery. “I didn;t really give him (Bennett) a choice. I just grabbed him and put him on the roof.”
Once the baby was safe Gauthier jumped from the window. Gauthier has an injured back, but Mole is expected to undergo surgery. Riley was not injured.
Dwyer said he was left a little shaken by the event.
“It’s been a wild last few days,” he said.
Gauthier’s home was a write-off.
“She’s really bruised. She’s on crutches right now,” Tammy Turbide said of her daughter Gauthier. “They lost everything.”
A fundraiser has been launched online and can be found here.
Bennett said Avery was helping Mole who had jumped, trying to get her across the street before she laid down in the grass.
“We were going so fast,” said Bennett. “We thought there might be an explosion.”
Gauthier said Bennett and the others are heroes.
“I don’t have words to express how grateful I am,” she said. “They saved mine and my child’s life.”
The fire was sparked just after 11 p.m. Monday and Cornwall firefighters responded with 11 people and four vehicles.
One vehicle and the fire department’s command centre remain on the scene as the investigation into the fire continues.
It’s unclear what started the fire.
A couple who live in a second unit of the apartment were unhurt in the fire.