24/7 firefighter and trooper save a life
Manchester firefighter Keith Knight doesn't often think about the day he, without hesitating, ran toward a burning car to help save a man's life.
"Does it make me feel good? Yeah, it makes me feel good," Knight said. "Do I reflect back on it? Not really."
Knight was off duty when he and New Hampshire State Trooper Scott Frye rescued an off-duty police officer who had driven his SUV off an embankment in Andover, Mass., on April 29, 2012. Knight didn't stop to consider his own safety when he hit the brakes, got out of his car and rushed to get the man out of the burning car.
Knight and Frye - who are being honored with Union Leader Hero Awards for their bravery - worked to free the driver while flames burned trees and brush around them, the SUV tires exploded from the heat and toxic fumes poured off burning plastic.
Usually, though, in such situations, Knight would be wearing protective gear and a breathing mask. That day, he was wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and sneakers.
"I knew I was putting myself at risk," he said. "But I knew what was involved when I ran down there to help the guy."
Frye, who was serving as a security officer for then-Gov. John Lynch, was driving Lynch and Dr. Susan Lynch when he came across the accident on Interstate 93.
Lynch called 911 and tried to keep traffic moving while others helped at the crash scene.
Knight said the driver, identified as off-duty Peabody, Mass., police officer Steven R. Marques, 61, of Methuen, Mass., couldn't move; the steering wheel was bent and lodged against his thigh.
It took three or four attempts to heave the big man out of the car, Knight said; others who had stopped helped to carry Marques up the embankment.
Last year, Manchester Fire Chief Jim Burkush praised Knight's actions.
"Keith typifies the quality of people we have working here. He's a firefighter 24-7," Burkush said.
But Knight said he has become uncomfortable with the accolades.
"It's kind of a nuisance," he said. "Everybody else has kind of moved on. It was just a reaction. It's just a reaction you have.
"Hopefully (Marques) is having a good life right now," Knight said. "Hopefully, he's thankful."