Boy Meets Firefighter Who Saved Him

Dereonte Ashford had burns to up to 80 percent of his little body

It was all smiles Monday for a little boy who finally met the person who saved his life.

Dereonte Ashford, 6, was pulled from the basement of his burning home, on the 6400 block of Wood Street, last March. He was initially in critical condition, with burns to up to 80 percent of his little body.

His mother, Sabrina Ashford, said she never knew who saved her son's life. The boy's teacher at The Goodlow School, found firefighter Tom O'Connell and arranged Monday's reunion.

"I said, 'Thank you so much,' because without him he wouldn't be here today," Sabrina Ashford later said.

Dereonte Ashford spent roughly six months in the hospital and a couple more months of therapy but returned to school in January. Teacher Kim Russell said the boy is adjusting well.

"He fits in with the other kids and they all love him," she said.

Not only was the young man excited to meet his rescuer, he was also happy to see they brought gifts.

O'Connell said the rescue was a team effort.

"It was chaotic obviously. We were told there was a boy trapped in the basement. All the guys here, we did our job, went in and got him. It all worked out well," O'Connell explained. "Usually with that amount of burns you die of infection."

Firefighters said everyone can all learn something from the incident. They said they hope families will create fire plans at home so everyone has a safe place to meet.

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