Firefighter, 18, dies in rescue of injured boy

January 13, 1992|By Peter Hermann

A teen-age firefighter who had just carried an injured 7-year-old boy from a burning Suitland home was killed early yesterday when he went back inside to search for others.

Firefighter Kenneth Michael Hedrick, 18, son of a volunteer fire chief and whose goal was to be a career firefighter, was pronounced dead at the scene of the blaze.

The boy he rescued, Shawn Sanchez, died of burns an hour later at the Children's National Medical Center, authorities said.

The boy's parents, Charles Sanchez, 32, and Barbara Sanchez, 30, were taken to Southern Maryland Hospital and later transferred to the burn unit at the Francis Scott Key Medical Center.

Officials said they suffered burns and respiratory injuries and were in serious condition.

A 9-year-old daughter of the couple, Shannon Sanchez, was released from Southern Maryland Hospital after treatment for smoke inhalation.

Mr. Hedrick was the son of Morningside Volunteer Fire Chief Les Hedrick, who said last night that he has worked at the station 25 years, and his son "basically grew up in the fire department."

The family moved from Camp Springs to the Charles County town of Hughesville 10 years ago, and the young firefighter graduated from LaPlata High School last year.

"I always tried to get him to join the fire department locally," Chief Hedrick said. "But he wanted to come to Prince George's County."

His son started working at the Morningside fire station at 16.

"We are all numb," the chief said of his family, which includes his wife Catherine, a registered nurse, and their 21-year-old daughter, Sherri, a secretary.

"We are just blessed that Kenny didn't get killed on the highway from a drunk driver. He died loving what he did -- fighting fires and saving people's lives."

County fire Lt. John Grega said all occupants of the house except Shawn had managed to get outside before firefighters arrived at the two-story, single-family home in the 3800 block of Walls Lane at 2:43 a.m.

The one-alarmer was declared under control at 3:15 a.m. Fire officials could not provide a damage estimate yesterday. The blaze started in the basement and apparently was accidental, officials said, adding that the cause remained under investigation.

Fire officials said Mr. Hedrick rescued Shawn from a first-floor bedroom and went back inside the house to look for others.

He died in the basement when he was hit by shelving and falling debris or furniture, officials said.

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