Debbra Cleveland helped to save Richard D. Franklin, Jr., from burning, San Bernardino, California, October 18, 1998. Unconscious, Richard, 15, was trapped inside an overturned car after a highway accident. Traveling on the same highway, Ms. Cleveland, 44, school bus driver, and two friends approached the scene and stopped. The car was smoking, and flames had broken out in the brush near it. When the women learned that Richard was still in the car, Ms. Cleveland immediately ran to his aid. She entered the vehicle through the missing window of its driver’s door to find Richard lodged between the roof of the car and its steering wheel; his legs were stuck under the dashboard, and his upper body was secured by his safety belt and further wedged by a fishing pole that he continued to clutch. Ms. Cleveland cut the safety belt with a pocketknife and broke the fishing pole with her hands in an attempt to free him. By then, flames had broken out on the underside of the car. Ms. Cleveland was joined by one of her friends, who also partially entered the car through the window. As flames grew on the car, the two women pulled on Richard repeatedly, freeing him. They pulled him headfirst from the vehicle, and, as they were dragging him away, flames engulfed the car. Richard required three weeks’ hospitalization for treatment of multiple injuries. Ms. Cleveland received minor cuts on one hand. They recovered.
73749 – 839273749-8392