Neighbors help two escape burning house
12 Sep 2003
By Brian McBride News-Gazette Staff Writer
In a scene that could be scripted for Hollywood, two local Kissimmee residents trapped on the second floor of a burning house leaped down to safety Thursday on a trampoline held by quick thinking neighbors.

The fire, which cornered 13-year-old Chris Sabir and his aunt, Johnye Louis Beaujour, 30, at 2776 Debany Road, started when a juvenile playing with matches inside a van parked in the garage ignited the upholstery.

“He thought he put it out and left the garage area,” said Fire Chief Robert King.

While some local media outlets had identified Sabir as the suspect, King said “juvenile fire play was involved,” but would not confirm that the teen-ager started the fire.

Before the call was made to firefighters at about 1:40 p.m., Sabir said he had just plugged in his DVD player in his bedroom when he saw smoke seeping out from an outlet.

“I saw that the outlet was on fire,” he said.

He ran out of his room and to his aunt’s bedroom to alert her. Both then made their way to a bathroom and tried to get out of a window, but it was too small to crawl through, Beaujour said.

The black smoke began to thicken upstairs as the garage became fully involved in flames.

“I was coughing and choking,” Sabir said. “I thought I was going to faint.”

Both of them then ran to Beaujour’s bedroom and closed the door.

Meanwhile, Frankie Wilson, who lived across the street, was in his pool with his child when he noticed the smoke billowing out of the house. He quickly jumped out of the pool, hopped a fence in his yard and ran behind the burning house where he had noticed the smoke. Several other neighbors joined him.

The trampoline was already in the backyard. Neighbor Linda Kelley, who once owned it, said she had given it to nearby neighbors. But when they moved, the neighbors put it out for trash pickup. Seeing the discarded trampoline, Sabir and his friends took it and had been playing on it in his backyard.

“It (the trampoline) was there in their time of need,” Kelley said.

With the fire still growing, Sabir and Beaujour opened the bedroom window and stepped onto the roof of a first-floor screened-in porch. Sabir said he was hesitant at first to climb out the window.

“But then I thought that the car was in the garage and it was filled with gasoline.”

It was Beaujour’s van that was in the garage, which was destroyed.

By then, the neighbors had already arrived.

“I said to them, ‘Come on, come on, jump on the trampoline,” Wilson said.

Wilson and others grabbed the trampoline and held it right below the victims.

Sabir jumped first with Beaujour following afterward.

“Thank God for them,” Beaujour said.

Sabir’s mother, Wilhermine Louis, who came home from work after being notified about the fire, said she had just begun to renovate the home.

“I was just fixing it up,” she said.

She noted that a house, unlike a family, could be replaced.

“I’m thankful for the neighbors I have,” Louis said.

Wilson dismissed that he was any kind of hero.

“They (victims) are the heroes,” he said. “I wouldn’t have jumped.”

The identities of the other neighbors who were involved in the rescue were unknown at press time.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross arrived on the scene shortly after the fire was extinguished to address the family’s needs.