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Off-duty RPD officer describes fiery rescue of children
by Jane Flasch
Rochester, N.Y. -"I knew I had to act fast. I put on my police hat," said Officer Christine Wilson.
She was off-duty, driving on West Henrietta Road Saturday and watched as a van caught fire after being broadsided. "The mother of the van jumped out of the car screaming "My babies, my babies. Somebody help me," Wilson said.
Officer Wilson said her experience as a police trainer and 11-year-veteran of the Rochester Police Department immediately kicked in. While others ran away from the burning vehicle, she ran toward it and saw four children inside.
"I saw these four beautiful kids. They became my babies and I had to act fast," she said.
Wilson was quickly able to release the seatbelt of the nine year old, and set to work on the infant carrier with a six month old strapped in.
"That little baby kept me calm. Her beautiful eyes was (sic) just looking at me and I was just like I can do this."
Finding a release latch took precious minutes. Meanwhile two year old twin boys remained locked in their car seats as the van filled with smoke. Unable to see, Officer Wilson felt around to try to release the seat but instead peeled the boy from his harness.
"I gave him a good yank and he fell into my arms, thank God," she said. Inside the van the temperature was rising. "It started popping the windows out. I prayed to Jesus for just a few more seconds," said Wilson.
The next thing she recalls is standing on the side of West Henrietta Road in the fresh air. She had been rescued by her own mother. They were in the car together as they drove up to the accident.
"She yanked me out of the van because the vehicle was on fire. As a mother she's got to save her child," said Wilson.
There was no going back. "I was on my knees yelling and screaming to the Lord Jesus help me please because I did not get that last child," said Wilson, in tears.
That's when she heard a commotion.
"Some unknown man- he came running from the back of the van yelling, running towards me with that last child saying: I got him. I got the last child," she recalled.
At that point the van began exploding. Officer Wilson grabbed two of the children and ran behind a building. Terri Fontanez says her four children are unharmed and praised the actions of Officer Wilson.
"It means the world to me," Fontanez said Sunday.
Fontanez was unaware of the role of the mystery good samaritan.
Officer Wilson would like to see the children again and would like to meet the man who appeared and then disappeared so suddenly.
"I don't know who this guy is but he is the real hero," she said. "Yes, I saved three of them but this man saved the last child. I want to thank him."