Donald Ethington helped to save Charles Phillip Reeves from burning, Brownfield, Texas, July 19, 1960. Charles, 17, laborer, was working in the head house atop a grain elevator when explosions of grain dust occurred in the bins below and started fires. The flames shot up into the head house, access to which had been cut off by the explosions that demolished part of the elevator. Charles, badly burned and screaming in pain, leaned out of a window 50 feet above the bins, which were more than 100 feet high. The head house then was unsupported at one side where the explosion had blown away part of a bin, and smoke issued from its windows. Firemen arrived, as did Ethington, 28, power-line foreman, a number of other persons, and an Air Force helicopter crew. The helicopter damaged one of its dual rotors on an antenna atop the head house and was forced to land in a nearby field. Another Air Force helicopter was summoned, and Ethington volunteered to assist its crew in removing Charles. Flames then burned at the side of the head house opposite the windows, and heat was intense. With Ethington aboard, the pilot flew the helicopter to 75 feet above the head house, where he had difficulty in keeping it steady. The looped end of 100-foot rope was dropped from the helicopter after the other end had been secured inside the aircraft. Ethington, fastened in a plastic sling by a heavy belt, then was lowered by means of a cable attached to the helicopter’s winch. He gathered the rope to him as he was let down 90 feet to the level of Charles. Swinging to the window, Ethington held to the sill and maneuvered the rope loop around Charles. Ethington then grasped Charles about the body, and both men were drawn away from the head house. They dropped five feet, and Charles began to slip from Ethington’s grasp. Ethington gripped him tightly and locked his legs about those of Charles as the aircraft moved away from the head house, which later collapsed. Ethington and Charles were lifted into the helicopter, and it then landed in the field. Charles, who had suffered severe burns over much of his body, died 16 days later. Four other workmen also lost their lives.
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