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Heart-stopping video shows Florida deputies pulling 9-year-old from burning home

Seffner fire rescue HCSO.png
Posted at 12:25 PM, May 23, 2022

SEFFNER, Fla. — The parents of a 9-year-old Florida boy said he's recovering at Tampa General Hospital after a house fire in Seffner Thursday night.

A heart-stopping video shared by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office showed body camera footage from deputies as they pulled the boy from the burning home.

The department said deputies first arrived at the house before 11 p.m. and found it fully engulfed. Neighbors, the boy's mother, and the mother's boyfriend were standing in the front yard.

Video shared by the sheriff's office showed the deputies, who arrived before firefighters, running toward the burning home as people told them a child was still inside.

His mother, Karen McGinnis, could be heard screaming her son's name, "Owen."

McGinnis said Owen's injuries are not as critical as first believed. The child suffered second-degree burns on his face and arms. He is currently on a ventilator after suffering from smoke inhalation.

“I’m very grateful we are alive, and Owen is alive," McGinnis said.

Deputies Kevin Reich and Alexander Maldonado forced entry by breaking a glass window leading to Owen's room and worked to direct the 9-year-old toward the open window.

Three minutes later, Deputy Reich felt Owen's arm and reached through the window to pull the boy out to safety.

“This young boy was minutes away from perishing from this fire," HCSO Sheriff Chad Chronister said. "This child is alive today because of their heroic actions."

Deputy Maldonado said he would never forget when he and Deputy Reich realized Owen was alive.

“We started calling out, 'Hey buddy, can you hear us? Hey buddy, can you come to the light? Hey, buddy, come to our voice?' Maldonado said. "A little after that, we heard him cough and cry and groan, so we knew he was in that room. It was just a matter of where in the room and how far he was. Once we were able to find him and pull him out, it was just relief and happiness."

Heart-stopping video shows Hillsborough deputies pull 9-year-old from burning home

HCFR said crews had the fire under control in 16 minutes. Crews searched the home two more times and found no one else inside.

McGinnis said the family's home is a total loss. However, she expressed her gratitude for the first-responders multiple times.

“This is a very stark reminder that stuff is stuff — we have everything we need,” she said.

Owen attends Apollo Beach Elementary and plays football. His dad said his son aspires to attend the University of Florida and then play in the NFL.

The two deputies who got the boy out, Reich and Maldonado, were evaluated by EMS but were not transported.

"I could not be more proud of the quick actions and bravery these deputies displayed, never giving up until they were able to pull the child to safety. It is because of their heroism that this young boy made it out alive," said Sheriff Chronister. "Law enforcement officers are often the first to respond to any emergency scene, so we must always be ready to jump in and help. These deputies never hesitated. They are true examples of what it means to be a hero."

When Maldonado was asked, during a press conference, what his thoughts were when Sheriff Chronister called him a hero and knowing that others may say the same thing, he responded, "we're just doing our job."

Hillsborough Sheriff discusses rescue of boy from house fire

HCFR said there were no other injuries.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Sarah Hollenbeck and web staff at WFTS first reported this story.