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Good Samaritan comes forward

Rochester, N.Y. -- Who was the Good Samaritan who rescued the fourth and final child from a burning van in Henrietta on Saturday?

The question was first raised by off-duty police officer Christine Wilson who was able to save three of the children, but called him the hero. "He came running from the back of the van yelling with that last child saying I got him," she said in an interview Monday.

"I want to know who he is," she said.

13WHAM News tracked down the "mystery man" and discovered another twist to this dramatic rescue.

The man is Frank Distefano. He was on the job on Saturday night and drove right past the motor vehicle accident on West Henrietta Road which caused the van to catch on fire.

"I wanted to put the fire out and to see if I could help," he said.

At that point the fire was just a flicker. By the time he got to the vehicle the hood was fully engulfed. "I heard somebody scream there's a baby, there's a baby," he said.

That's when he threw aside the fire extinguisher he had pulled from his truck.

"I ran round the back of the van and I put my elbow through the back window. I remember clearing the glass with my arm," he said. "At that point the flames were into the front seat."

Much later Frank would learn three other children had already been rescued by Officer Wilson. They even worked together to save the youngest, a six month old infant.

"I yanked the car seat with the baby and then I went to pass that on to someone but no one was there," Wilson recalled. "I pushed it away."

"I grabbed the carrier and ran it to the corner and set it down," said Frank. He said that was the first thing he did on the scene before realizing the fourth child was still in the van.

Meanwhile Officer Wilson was able to reach one of the two year old twins and get him to safety. But not his brother. "I was on my knees screaming to the Lord, Help me Jesus I did not get that last child," she recalled in tears.

Yet the twin also made it out, unharmed.

"Yes I saved three of them but this man saved the last child," she said Monday. "I don't know who he is or where he is but I want to thank him."

From the back of the van, through the smashed-out window, Frank DiStefano was able to grasp the top of the seat belt. Then with the help of a third rescuer, the child was pulled to safety.

"The child was freed and he pulled him from the car," said DiStefano.

In yet another amazing twist, no one knows the identity of this third rescuer.

"As soon as we released that last kid from the vehicle the whole vehicle was engulfed in flames," said DiStefano. "It was a matter of maybe a minute."

Jane Flasch

 
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Washington Times