Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mother, Good Samaritans save three children from St. Pete fire

ST. PETERSBURG — Antonio Harris heard banging on his door about 10:30 p.m. Monday. It was his neighbor. She said her first-floor apartment across the courtyard was on fire.

A floor above the burning unit, Ashley Stafford was talking to her mother-in-law on the phone. She suddenly smelled smoke. Her three young children — a 1-year-old boy and two girls, 2 and 6 — were in the Pinellas Point apartment with her.

"Mama, there's black smoke everywhere," Stafford said. "Come help us."

Wearing only underwear, Harris dashed into the cold and over to the building. He scaled a pole to get to Stafford's second-floor unit. Stafford made her way to the window and handed the children to him.

Harris then tossed them to two of his cousins who had gathered below. They caught the children, who were shaking and stunned. Then Harris helped Stafford to the ground.

"It was just instinct," Harris, 24, said. "She was handing me the kids and I was tossing them down."

Stafford, 23, and her kids were taken to All Children's Hospital for smoke inhalation that fire officials said was not life-threatening.

"They inhaled a lot of smoke," said Cheryl Flounary, Stafford's mother-in-law, to whom Stafford had been talking on the phone. "I'm just glad to say that my grandkids and my daughter-in-law are safe. Their health is more precious than any material things."

Flounary identified the children as Ollie Flounary III, who turns 1 today, Olivia Flounary, 2, and Najiyyah Flounary, 6.

Fire officials said four units at Edgewater Apartments, 3275 Pinellas Point Drive S, were damaged enough to force the displacement of the 15 people who lived in them. The Red Cross was summoned the scene to help.

The woman who lives in the first-floor unit that caught fire, Stefanie Rich, said the blaze started when her 22-month-old son tipped over a candle she had burning on her television.

"It kind of circled in a ring of fire," said Rich, 26. "I grabbed him and we ran out the door as quickly as possible."

Fire officials said no one else was injured.

Mother, Good Samaritans save three children from St. Pete fire 12/22/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 22, 2009 11:19am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Hurricane watch issued as Tropical Depression Harvey sets aim on Texas coastline


    The system moving toward Texas has regenerated into Tropical Depression Harvey, prompting storm surge and hurricane watches on portions of the Lone Star State's coast, according to the National …

    [National Hurricane Center]
  2. Worker killed in Palm Harbor tractor accident


    PALM HARBOR — Authorities are investigating a tractor accident that left one person dead.

  3. Trump controversies continue to take toll on Mar-a-Lago


    President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club continues to lose business in light of his controversial remarks on race and violence.

  4. Taylor Swift ends intrigue, announces new album in November


    Yes, Taylor Swift fans, Wednesday was a lucky one for you.

    This cover image released by Big Machine shows art for her upcoming album, "reputation," expected Nov. 10.