Make us your home page
Instagram

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

Loading...
  1. Fox renewed O'Reilly contract despite knowing of allegations

    Nation

    NEW YORK (AP) — The Fox News Channel says the company knew a news analyst planned to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill O'Reilly when it renewed the popular personality's contract in February.

    Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly appears on the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," in New York. O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel in April following reports that several women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. [Associated Press file]
  2. Conviction overturned 30 years later in neo-Nazi murder case

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A judge on Friday overturned the murder conviction of Dean McKee now that new evidence has raised doubt about McKee's guilt in a Tampa slaying that occurred nearly three decades ago when he was 16.

    In 1987, a St. Petersburg Times reporter interviewed Dean McKee for a story about young skinheads in Tampa. [Times | 1987]
  3. Experts have some theories on who's carrying out Seminole Heights killings

    Crime

    The words serial killer tend to conjure an image of a middle-aged white man, likely a loner. He stabs or chokes or strangles, murdering up close for the thrill, straight out of central casting.

    A memorial was set up where Anthony Naiboa, 20, was found shot to death in Seminole Heights. Some experts who have reviewed information in the case say that whoever is behind the three Seminole Heights killings may live in the area. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  4. Late fumble, field goal send Florida State to another loss

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida State's streak of 35 consecutive bowl appearances is in serious jeopardy after a last-second 31-28 home loss to Louisville on Saturday.

    Louisville's Lamar Jackson gets past Florida State's Matthew Thomas to score in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Tallahassee Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) FLSC102
  5. Funeral starts for soldier at center of Trump fight

    Military

    COOPER CITY, Fla. (AP) — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102