By Greg Cunningham, Amarillo.com
Michael Garman may have just found himself a few new customers.
The Globe-News carrier put aside his regular rounds Saturday morning when he came upon a natural gas explosion at 1622 N. Hayes St. By the time he was finished, the newspapers might have been a little late, but Garman had made himself a popular man on Hayes Street by helping pull an injured man out of the burning house.
“We sure do appreciate him,” said Elsie Prosser, sister-in-law and neighbor of Wardlow Prosser, who Garman helped rescue. “If he hadn’t have been there, it might have turned out bad. He was a big help.”
The Prosser family is quite impressed with Garman, but the four-year veteran paper carrier downplayed his role, saying all he did was react to a bad situation.
“I wasn’t really thinking about anything,” Garman said. “As soon as I saw somebody in there, I figured I had to get him out there before the house collapsed or the fire spread.”
The whole thing apparently started with a leaking natural gas pipe in Wardlow Prosser’s yard, which allowed natural gas to accumulate in a basement that had been filled in under the house, said Prosser’s nephew, Ron Prosser.
Right about 6 a.m., the accumulated gas reached an ignition source, probably the hot water heater, and caused a massive explosion.
“It was a hell of a wake-up call,” said Ron Prosser, who also lives on Hayes. “It blew stuff everywhere. The porch was out in the front yard, and all the windows were gone. We found pieces of glass 75 feet away.”
Garman pulled up on the street just after the explosion and ran into some neighbors trying to call 911, but they did not speak English. Garman said he spoke to the dispatcher, then ran over to the house.
Garman quickly spotted Wardlow Prosser standing in the kitchen of his ruined house. “He looked kind of dazed,” Garman said. “He had blood running from his mouth and he was standing there looking at me.”
Right about that time, Ron Prosser ran up, and the two of them tried to get in the house. The door wouldn’t open, however, because the blast had bowed out the wall and deformed the door jamb, keeping the door stuck.
“We tried to get it open, but it wasn’t coming,” Garman said. “I told him (Ron Prosser) to stand back, and I started kicking at the door.”
Garman and Prosser were finally able to batter the door open, all while the house continued to burn. Prosser went in and pulled his uncle out just as police and firefighters were arriving at the scene.
Amarillo Fire Department Capt. Bob Johnson confirmed that the explosion was caused by a gas leak and said he admired the courage of the two men who rescued Wardlow Prosser, although he said their decision might not have been the best one.
National statistics show that 60 percent of the fatalities in fires are sustained by rescuers, so firefighters always recommend bystanders never enter a burning house, where smoke and noxious gasses can turn a rescuer into a victim in seconds.
“We can’t really recommend going into a burning house, but I understand it’s human nature, and it’s a good part of human nature,” Johnson said. “If they go in there and get them out, it’s something heroic. In this case, it worked out, but it doesn’t always happen that way.”
Ron Prosser said regardless of whether it was wise or not, Garman deserves credit for helping to save his uncle, who suffered second-degree burns on his arms and face from the explosion, but will be okay after some rehabilitation.
“I’d really like to thank the paperboy who stopped and helped out, because he put himself at risk to save my uncle,” Prosser said. “I think he deserves some recognition for what he did.”
Globe-News Publisher Les Simpson agreed that Garman deserves to be recognized. “We’re very proud to have a carrier who would act so courageously to help another,” Simpson said.