Weston man honored for rescuing woman from burning car

Bart Kelleher, center, with Fire Chief John Pokorny and Deputy Chief Terry Blake.

Bart Kelleher, center, with Fire Chief John Pokorny and Deputy Chief Terry Blake.

The Weston Volunteer Fire Department has given Bart Kelleher a Certificate of Life Saving for pulling a young woman from a burning car on Tuesday, May 9.

Kelleher saved the woman’s life by reacting quickly, according to Deputy Fire Chief Terry Blake.

The incident happened around midnight. on Old Redding Road, when Kelleher, 42, awoke to what he described as a “horrific sounding” crash.

“My wife, Keri, and I shot up instantly,” he said. “We didn’t even need to see the accident, we knew it was going to be serious based on how it sounded.”

Kelleher lives near a “big curve” on Old Redding Road, and has heard accidents near his house multiple times in the five years he has lived in Weston.

“I ran outside and heard a young girl calling for help,” he said. “My parental instincts kicked in and I went to the scene.”

He said the crash was about a “property-length” away from his front yard and he could see car flames.

While Keri called 9-1-1, Kelleher ran to the scene of the crash where he said he saw a “mangled” vehicle stuck on rocks and trees.

“The car hit a big tree and looked like it spun 90 degrees. It ended up on top of a rock wall,” said Kelleher. “I think the impact started a fire to the front of the car.”

Kelleher climbed over rocks and trees to get a look inside the car to figure out how many people were in it. Once he realized the only occupant was the driver, he knew he needed to act quickly.

Amidst the driver’s cries for help, Kelleher noticed a rear window was shattered. The doors to the car were too crushed to open.

“I got her to get as close as she could to the open window and I basically bear hugged her and pulled her through,” he said. “She was in shock, so we took her to the front steps of my house until the EMTs came to take her to the hospital.”

According to Weston police, investigation of the crash is still open and further details about the driver are not available. The woman was transported to Norwalk Hospital.

“By the time all the responders arrived, the car was totally engulfed in flames,” Kelleher said. “Since it was in a wooded area I was worried the woods would also catch on fire.”

Bart Kelleher rescued the driver from this burning car by pulling her through a broken window.

Bart Kelleher rescued the driver from this burning car by pulling her through a broken window.

Award

Kelleher was presented with a Certificate of Life Saving by Blake and Fire Chief John Pokorny on Memorial Day, immediately prior to the parade.

Blake praised Kelleher for his hasty response and credited him for saving the driver’s life. Kelleher said he was “humbled” by the recognition but said he was just a neighbor helping out.

“I’m not a volunteer firefighter. They respond every day and they do it entirely as volunteers, ” said Kelleher. “I just responded one day.”

Kelleher is the manager of a Southport-based shipping company and has three children, two girls and a boy, under the age of five. He said his instincts as a parent helped him spring to the rescue that morning.

“We’re happy that we could help avoid the unthinkable,” he said.

The Certificate of Life Saving is a civilian honor, but isn’t given out very often. Last year, the certificate was given to two people who saved a man from drowning in the Saugatuck Reservoir. Prior to that, Blake said he doesn’t remember the last time it was awarded.

“It’s fortunate that Weston is a relatively safe town and we don’t have to give too many of these out,” said Blake. “But things still happen here and civilian contributions like Bart’s are very important.”

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