Michael Peter Higgins, 23, inventory control clerk, saved Albert J. DeLuca, 27, commercial aircraft pilot, and helped to save Marilyn C. Thomas, 35, from burning, East Boston, Massachusetts, March 28, 1965. A helicopter piloted by DeLuca and carrying Mrs. Thomas, her husband, and Linda M. O’Neill crashed in an upright position on a highway, and fire broke out around a fuel tank directly behind the cabin. All occupants were injured and lost consciousness. Michael and his brother, Robert Riedle Higgins, witnessed the accident and ran to the helicopter, although other persons shouted warnings of an explosion. Michael and Robert were over six feet tall, and they stooped while at the aircraft since the main rotor, which still was spinning, was only six and a half feet above the ground due to bent landing skids. Michael ran to the front of the helicopter, where the plexiglass bubble had been broken away. Flames were three feet high over the engine and rose a foot from gasoline leaking onto the roadway. The husband of Mrs. Thomas was lying inert on the pavement clear of the helicopter. Michael reached into the cabin, released DeLuca’s seat belt, and pulled him out of the aircraft. Robert ran to the side of the cabin and saw Mrs. Thomas slumped atop Linda in the passenger seats. He attempted without success to remove Mrs. Thomas as the flames increased. Robert then leaned into the cabin to his waist and with his hands within eight inches of the flames released the seat belt on Mrs. Thomas. Michael, after taking DeLuca to the side of the road, ran to Robert and also took hold of Mrs. Thomas. Together they removed her from the aircraft. Robert unfastened Linda’s seat belt with difficulty because of the intense heat and periodic flames being blown into the cabin. The flames burned his forehead. Robert pulled Linda out of the helicopter. Flames then greatly increased. The husband of Mrs. Thomas was fatally injured. DeLuca, Mrs. Thomas, and Linda were hospitalized for their injuries.
48839 – 520448839-5204