Melville, NY – On September 22, Cold Spring Harbor Firefighter Robert Thornton, received the Bronze Medal of Valor from the Vocational Education and Extension Board (VEEB) of Suffolk County in recognition of his heroic actions, which saved the lives of two handicapped citizens. Legislator William Spencer was honored to join Robert as he was recognized for his bravery.
“When an emergency arose, Firefighter Thornton sprang into action to rescue two private citizens without any thought of the danger to himself. On behalf of the citizens of Suffolk County, I thank Robert for his continued service and dedication to keeping our neighbors safe when he is both on and off duty.”
On July 19, 2018, Robert was driving north on Park Avenue in Huntington when he noticed flames coming from underneath a paratransit van. Seeing the imminent risk, he was able to flag down the driver and direct him to the shoulder of the road where he explained that the van was on fire and needed to be evacuated immediately. The driver became extremely upset and was unable to assist in removing the occupants. Robert attempted to activate the side door entry ramp to gain access to the van, but it was found to be inoperable. By this time the fire had entered the front of the cab and the occupants were becoming agitated and coughing from the billowing smoke rapidly filling the van. Robert opened the doors at the back of the van, but realized he would need additional help to remove the passengers who were sitting in very heavy, motorized wheelchairs. Thinking quickly on his feet, he stopped two passing trucks. Together, the drivers and Robert were able to move the two occupants in their wheelchairs out of the van to safety. After saving the passengers, the two good Samaritans left the scene but Robert remained to direct traffic around the burning vehicle until the Huntington Manor Fire Department and Suffolk County Police Department arrived.