Loomis Chaffee Groundskeeper Jesse Burnham was presented with the Windsor Police Department’s Citizen Award on Wednesday, November 1, for helping to free a 17-month-old child from a burning vehicle.
Jesse was weed-whacking on Loomis property on October 4 when a bizarre series of events unfolded.
A few blocks away, a vehicle was stolen with the child inside. The suspect drove to and committed a bank robbery at Windsor Federal Savings on Broad Street, according to the award citation. The suspect then fled in the vehicle with the baby inside, traveling southbound on Windsor Avenue. The driver eventually lost control of the vehicle, which crossed over the center median into the northbound lane and continued off the road into a yard, where the car hit a berm that launched the vehicle into the air. The vehicle struck a tree more than 20 feet in the air, came crashing down into a yard, and caught on fire. The driver of the vehicle died.
Jesse had earmuffs on to block out the noise of the weed-whacker, but he could still hear the sound of the car — a sound he said is imprinted in his brain. “I felt it, too,” he said. “It was so close I could feel it, and I look up and see the whole thing happening. The car coming in front of me, hitting the berm, hitting the tree.”
When he saw what had happened, he immediately called 911, overcoming his shock to react quickly. Then he heard the baby crying. Eventually he and two others got the child out of the burning car.
The citation noted that Jesse “disregarded his own personal safety” to work with the others to get the child out of the car “and provide aid until police arrived.”
Jesse’s family was at the ceremony. So, too, were the baby and the baby’s family.
“It was very emotional for everyone,” Jesse said.
The citation, from Windsor Chief of Police Donald J. Melanson, concludes: “Due to his exceptional performance that resulted in a successful effort to save a human life, Jesse Burnham is presented with the Windsor Police Department’s Citizen Award.”
Lance Hall, the director of the Loomis Chaffee Physical Plant, lauded the effort by Jesse.
“Jesse is hard-working and always shows a willingness to help out others, so while the situation was certainly a surprise, Jesse’s actions were not,” Lance said.