DERRY — Robert Grasso is grateful his longtime friend Lindy Rioux is still alive after she fell into a fire pit at his house Saturday night and was badly burned.
Rioux, 53, of Derry, remained in the Intensive Care Unit of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston Monday afternoon, according to a hospital spokesman. Her condition wasn’t available at press time.
Grasso, 62, who has known Rioux for 40 years, said she came over Saturday night to spend some time together at his house at 147 Fordway Extension. The two friends were sitting in chairs by the fire pit behind his house, sharing some drinks. No one else was with them, he said.
“We were singing Christmas carols, reminiscing about birthdays, stuff like that,” said Grasso, whose birthday is the day before Rioux’s in February.
Grasso said he left his friend to go retrieve a pair of gloves inside his house to cook hot dogs on the fire. He said he noticed his wife, Lisha and son, Devin, were watching television.
It took less than five minutes to get the gloves, leave the house and then return to the pit area, he said.
When he was walking back to the fire pit, he was shocked to hear Rioux calling for help and saw her lying in the pit, her clothes on fire.
“I went back and she was in the fire, saying ‘help me, help me,’ he said. “All I could do is get her out and put the fire out on her back with the snow,” said Grasso, who burned his fingers.
After Rioux was pulled out of the fire, Grasso said his son Devin called 911 and Derry emergency personnel came.
“She was on the ground,” Grasso said. “She kept saying, ‘don’t leave me, don’t leave me,’ and I said, ‘I’m not going to leave you.”’ Paramedics arrived shortly after 7 p.m. and began treating Rioux. She was taken by ambulance to Parkland Medical Center and then flown by helicopter to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where a spokesman confirmed she was in the ICU.
Derry police also responded to the scene and questioned Grasso for several minutes, before leaving, Grasso said.
Police Capt. Vern Thomas said the incident is not considered a crime and a police report wasn’t generated.
“All we have is a medical assist to the Derry Fire Department ambulance at that location,” Thomas said.
Grasso said he thinks Rioux might have been trying to warm herself by the fire when she slipped on the snow and ice and fell into the fire pit.
“I think she just slipped and fell,” he said.
As he spoke, a package of hot dogs could still be seen near the fire pit, not far from an empty beer bottle. Grasso said the two friends had been drinking and consumed several drinks each over a period of several hours.
Grasso said he is thankful he was able to pull his friend out of the fire, but extremely saddened by the incident.
Choking back tears, Grasso said he has had trouble sleeping and can’t seem to get the incident out of his mind.
“I’m hurting inside,” he said. “Even a few minutes longer and she might have been hurt so badly she died right there.”
Grasso said his family members have supported him since the incident occurred.“My son said, ‘look at it this way, you saved a life.’”