Quick action saves woman's life BALTIMORE COUNTY

'SHE WAS JUST A BALL OF FLAMES'

June 30, 1993|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Staff Writer

Neil Cariello was treating a lawn in Rodgers Forge when he heard the desperate screams.

"I heard a voice crying, 'Help me! Help me!' like something was really wrong," he said. Then he saw a terrified Catherine Donohue burst from her home four houses down the street, her clothing on fire.

"I thought it might be a mugging," Mr. Cariello said, "but then I saw the flames."

Mr. Cariello's quick response, with help from neighbors, probably saved Ms. Donohue, 61, who was in serious but stable condition at Francis Scott Key Hospital yesterday.

Mike Whitaker of the Baltimore County Fire Investigation Bureau said the incident started Monday afternoon in the kitchen of Ms. Donohue's home in the 300 block of Hopkins Road.

"The burners on the stove were lit, and she apparently got on a stool to reach something in a cabinet and caught her clothing on fire," he said.

Mr. Cariello, 30, who works for Pro-Grass, a Timonium lawn care company, was working down the street when he spotted the victim running from her house and heard her cries.

He sprinted toward her, shouting.

"I called to her to get on the ground and roll," he said. "She hit the ground and rolled toward me. I fell on her and batted the flames with my clipboard. I yelled for someone to bring wet towels and call 911. Her clothing was almost completely burned off."

Mary Angela Brown, who lives across the street, said she was reading on her front porch when she heard the screams and saw her neighbor on fire.

"She was just a ball of flames," Mrs. Brown said. "I called for my husband, and then ran to get a blanket. He went over there while I hosed some towels and the blanket."

Kevin Fidati, who lives next-door to Ms. Donohue, was also there quickly.

"The flames were out, and she was conscious, but she was fearful, especially about her face. She was afraid it was burned," he said. But the flames never reached her face.

A firetruck and paramedics arrived within five minutes, and a few minutes after that, a MedEvac helicopter landed in a schoolyard two blocks away to transport Ms. Donohue to the burn unit at Francis Scott Key Hospital.

She was in serious but stable condition yesterday with first- and second-degree burns over 40 percent of her body.

She was to undergo surgery today.

"Anything over 30 percent is very dangerous because of the danger of infection," Mr. Whitaker, of the Fire Investigation Bureau, said.

There was no damage to Ms. Donohue's home.

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