Richard L. Pealatere rescued Nathan A. Gonyer from burning, Yucca Valley, California, September 8, 1998. Nathan, 5, was in the rear of a van driven by his mother when fire erupted in the engine, then spread to the interior of the van. The mother escaped with another child but could not reach Nathan. Driving nearby, Pealatere, 52, carpenter, saw the van on fire and responded, as did others. Learning that Nathan remained inside the smoke-filled van, Pealatere and several other men attempted to gain entry to the vehicle through its side and back doors, but both sets of doors were locked. The men succeeded in opening the doors but were thwarted in initial attempts to enter the van by the dense smoke and intense heat inside. Pealatere then crawled through the back doors into the van, located Nathan behind the driver’s seat, and exited the van with him. Nathan was hospitalized for treatment of severe burns and died about three months later. Pealatere sustained burns to both hands, and he recovered.
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