POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Winter Haven man’s quick thinking likely saved the life of an elderly neighbor who collapsed in a house fire early Thursday morning.
Fire crews were called to a mobile home fire on Lake Henry Drive around 7:19 a.m. where they arrived to find flames shooting from the front of the house.
Authorities said a neighbor heard what sounded like an explosion before they went outside to investigate.
“I was having a cup of coffee and I heard a loud bang that shook our house and I said to my wife that’s an explosion, that’s not thunder,” said Francis Osinskie, who lives in the same park. “I jumped on my bicycle and went over to see if I could help.”
When Osinskie got to the mobile home, he noticed flames inside. Osinskie then called for help and immediately rushed into the home where he found an elderly man on the floor.
“I tried to go into the front door,” Osinskie recalled. “It was locked, pulled it open, did manage to get it open but it was full of flames, couldn’t get through it.”
Osinskie said another neighbor told him there was somebody trapped in the locked lanai.
“I got down on my knees because there was so much smoke and I could see the gentleman inside but then he fell,” Osinskie said. “I said, ‘we gotta get him out of there.’”
Osinskie and the neighbor, who used to be a volunteer fireman, managed to pull the elderly man out of the burning house by his hands.
“I don’t think there was more than 30 seconds left for him, Osinskie added. “That smoke was very very thick dense, and it smelled awful.”
“Unfortunately, [Osinskie] was unable to make it through the smoke and flames to the female inside,” a news release from the Winter Haven Police Department said.
When authorities arrived at the home 4 minutes after the initial call, firefighters found the elderly woman inside, but she had already died.
“I’m still kind of sad that we couldn’t get her,” Osinskie said. “That’s the hard part when you’re in there and you can hear the person and you can’t get to them.”
Crews said the fire was extinguished within five minutes of arrival.
The Winter Haven Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the fire. Initial reports indicate the incident does not appear to be suspicious.
“I just don’t want to make myself look to be more than I am,” Osinskie said. “I’m just trying to help.”
Additional information is expected to be released.