Leo J. Gauthier saved David B. Benoit from burning, Northbridge, Massachusetts, December 24, 1961. When leaking gas caused an explosion which demolished a frame apartment building two and a half stories high, four occupants were killed, others were injured, and David, 2, was trapped beneath the debris as flames broke out and spread rapidly. Gauthier, 46, patrolman, who was in church at the time, ran two blocks to the scene and saw David beneath the rubble, which was as much as 15 feet deep. While others held up one end of a large section of debris and a fireman sprayed water under it, Gauthier began to crawl toward David. Digging away laths and plaster, he crawled 20 feet to the edge of the foundation and then eight feet farther on the sagging floor above the basement of the building. He reached David, who lay on a collapsed bed beneath debris, which included a heavy timber. Flames in the rubble then rose as much as 40 feet above the ground. While the men continued to hold up the large section of debris, the fireman sprayed water near Gauthier as he freed David with some difficulty. Drawing David after him, Gauthier then crawled backward 28 feet in the rubble, passing within three feet of flames above him, and emerged from the debris. David was badly bruised, and Gauthier sustained lacerations and a strained back. Both recovered.
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