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Photographer's Perfect Timing And 'Dad Skills' Save Toddler From Burning Car

Michael Connor, 42, rescued a 20-month-old child from a burning vehicle on Oct. 13, 2018. (Courtesy of the Dunkirk Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.)
Michael Connor, 42, rescued a 20-month-old child from a burning vehicle on Oct. 13, 2018. (Courtesy of the Dunkirk Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.)

Michael Connor, who lives with his wife and three young children in Calvert County, Maryland, wouldn't consider himself an adrenaline junkie or a daredevil. But when faced an opportunity to jump in and help during a life or death situation last year, the 42-year-old photographer didn't hesitate.

Listen to full episode here. Michael Connor's story starts at 7:20

On the evening of Oct. 13, 2018, Michael was driving home after photographing a wedding. The event ran a bit long, so he and his two assistants stayed an extra half hour. Finally, Michael started driving back home late in the evening on an empty, country road. That's when he noticed a glow.

"It was obviously a glow from a fire," Michael said. "The only thing I can think of was, 'That's obviously a car fire.' And when I got a lot closer, I realized that nobody else was around. There were a couple of cars that were just starting to pull over, but there were no police, no fire. And I remember it just hit me all at once that this must have literally just happened."

Michael remembers a few people all rushed to help the victims in one vehicle. But then Michael saw the other car just a few yards away. And that car was burning.

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"I ran uphill and just yelled for people to follow me, and nobody did," Michael said. "The entire engine was on fire, the entire dashboard was on fire."

When Michael got closer, he noticed an unconscious woman on the ground outside of the burning car. At first, he wasn't sure if she had survived the crash, but then he saw her move as she struggled to speak.

Michael remembers frantically asking the woman if there was anyone else in the van. That's when she looked up at him and said something that sent a chill down his spine: "My son."

As Michael rushed to the passenger side of the van, he heard explosions. That's when he lifted up the inflated airbags, ducked underneath, and saw a child starting right back at him.

"He was calm," Michael recalled. "He was looking around. I remember he was sitting in a brown car seat. I remember his curly, blond hair and big black eyes just staring around."

Michael, a father himself, knew just what to do. He quickly grabbed the child under his arms, pulled him straight out of his car seat and onto his left shoulder, and started running. He remembers yelling, "I have your son! He's OK!"

Just a few seconds after Michael rescued the child, an eyewitness said more parts of the car exploded. Michael believes if the rescue hadn't all gone perfectly — if he had sped on the road that night even by a mere 15 seconds, everything could have been very different.

The child and his mother — as well as the passengers in the second car — suffered serious injuries from the crash. None were life-threatening. A Calvert County Sheriff's Office report states that the mother's car was going the wrong way down the street when it hit another vehicle. The little boy Michael saved was 20 months old at the time of the crash. The local fire department confirmed that a good Samaritan was on the scene and saved the child, and an eyewitness account confirmed that the good Samaritan was indeed Michael Connor.

After the rescue, the young boy's family, including his father and mother, thanked Michael profusely for saving their son's life. The family hasn't stayed in touch with Michael, but Michael hopes he will someday meet the little boy again.

For now, he says he's happy knowing the child is OK.

Yasmin Amer Twitter Producer, Kind World
Yasmin Amer is a producer and reporter for WBUR’s Kind World podcast.

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Andrea Asuaje Twitter Reporter/Producer, Kind World
Andrea Asuaje is a reporter and producer in WBUR’s iLab, where she makes Kind World. She is honored to share these emotional and impactful stories of hope, love and compassion with the WBUR audience.

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