Hernan L. Tobon rescued Gabrielle Fontanez from burning, Farmingdale, New York, June 2, 1997. Gabrielle, 11 months old, and her twin sister were in car seats in the back seat of a car being driven by their mother when the mother noticed smoke issuing from the back-seat area. The mother pulled over to the side of the highway and attempted to remove the girls from the car. Another motorist, Tobon, 22, forklift operator, approached and, seeing the mother calling for help, parked at the scene and went to the car, which was filling with dense smoke. Tobon reached through the opened passenger door and removed Gabrielle’s sister, then learned that Gabrielle was also in the car. By then, flames had broken out in the back-seat area, and they grew quickly. Tobon went to the driver’s door, pushed the front seat forward, and reached into the back-seat area as a man who had arrived with a fire extinguisher attempted to put out the flames. Requiring repeated attempts, Tobon freed Gabrielle from her seat and removed her from the car. Flames filled the car shortly. Gabrielle was hospitalized for treatment of severe burns, and Tobon sustained minor burns to his hands, from which he recovered.
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