SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Residents and U.S. military personnel in a South Korean city rescued a woman and her three children from a fire by safely catching them with a blanket as they fell four floors, fire officials said Wednesday.
About 10 people held the blanket and persuaded the woman to drop her children from a fourth-floor window and then jump herself before rescue workers arrived at the scene last week in the city of Pyeongtaek, said Moon Sang-hyeon from the Songtan Fire Department.
The children — aged 1, 3, and 4 — were not hurt and their mother, a 30-year-old Nigerian, suffered only minor injuries, Moon said.
The four-story building stood on a narrow alley near a busy outdoor market and a U.S. military base, which made it difficult for fire trucks to reach the scene quickly, Moon said.
"Usually, it's safer to be patient and wait for fire workers to come, but in this case, everything worked out for the best," Moon said.
One of the Americans who assisted in the rescue was initially trapped herself, according to Osan Air Base, where all of the Americans involved work.
Staff Sgt. Cierra Rogers, 731st Air Mobility Squadron administrative assistant, was inside the building when she smelled smoke. Unable to use the doors, she kicked out a window to reach the patio.
"From then I made a decision because you can easily die from choking on smoke," Rogers said in an account posted on the base website.
She tried to climb down using wires attached to the patio, but fell about 4.5 meters (15 feet) to the ground. The other U.S. personnel who had noticed the fire rushed to her aid.
Tech Sgt. Stefan Haynes, 51st Force Support Squadron passport official, then saw the mother and children. A father of five kids, he told himself, "No, this not going to happen."
The base's website said the Osan personnel involved in the rescue returned a couple of days later to meet the father, who expressed his gratitude.
Rogers suffered a deep cut from the broken glass. Firefighters arrived a short time later and rescued another woman from a third-floor bathroom, but there were no more injuries, Moon said.