Wednesday, January 24, 2001

Civilians save woman from blaze

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Inside, a hand reached through clouds of smoke while fire raged in the next room.

        Outside, through glass panes in the rear door, two men saw the hand reach for the door and stepped up efforts to save Anna Coyle's life Tuesday morning.

[photo] Ronnie Davis (left) and his friend, Eric Cornett, fought through smoke to save Mr. Davis' neighbor Anna Coyle from a fire at her house (at left).
(Glenn Hartong photos)
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        “Get back!” they yelled, before bursting through the door of her home at 1914 Pearl St. Thick smoke encased them instantly and sent them reeling back.

        Next-door neighbor Ronnie Davis, 32, and his friend, Eric Cornett, 38, of Southgate, said they couldn't breathe and couldn't see Ms. Coyle. When they spotted the glow of her dropped flashlight, adrenaline kicked in.

        They plunged into the circling smoke and dragged Ms. Coyle, 39, out of her blazing home.

        Popping sounds from the heat's intensity could be heard on the back porch as Mr. Davis performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the unconscious woman.

        Neighbors and firefighters say the two rescued Ms. Coyle from flames powerful enough to destroy her home and damage two others shortly after 5:30 a.m.

        “They did an excellent job. With the volume of the smoke and the fire, she probably would have died ... if they hadn't helped,” said Capt. Jeff Groneck of the Covington Fire Department.

        Ms. Coyle was taken to St. Elizabeth Medical Center North in Covington, before she was transferred to University Hospital's burn unit, where she was in good condition Tuesday night.

[photo] Covington Fire Department Capt. Chuck Norris (left) and Assistant Chief Mike Swain look for the origin of a house fire Tuesday on Pearl Street.
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        Mr. Davis and Mr. Cornett shied away from “hero” talk.

        “I don't feel like no hero,” Mr. Davis said. “I (did) ... what anybody else would have. I knew she was in danger.”

        The roofing on his house, 1912 Pearl St., was damaged by the flames. The house on the other side of Ms. Coyle's suffered damage to the roof and exterior wall. Ms. Coyle's home was gutted.

        Damage to Ms. Coyle's home was estimated at $68,000. Total damage to the three houses was estimated at $80,000, said Dave Brown, assistant chief for the Covington Fire Department.

        The cause of the fire is unknown, firefighters said.

        Ms. Coyle has lived on Pearl Street for several years and is known to be quiet and friendly. Neighbors said she cleaned homes and cared for sick people. She had several cats that survived the fire, firefighters said.

        Mr. Davis is a pipe threader at Lally Pipe & Tube in Taylor Mill. He normally leaves for work by 5:30 a.m., but was running late Tuesday.

        He was getting ready to leave when he spotted huge flames in Ms. Coyle's window. His wife, Diane, called 911, while Mr. Davis and Mr. Cornett ran outside in their bare feet.

        Before they reached her house, they urged Tom and Joan Lantry and their three young children, who live at 1916 Pearl St., to get out. The family left their home immediately.

        Mrs. Lantry watched anxiously as Mr. Davis and Mr. Cornett dragged Ms. Coyle toward the street. As they passed Ms. Coyle's burning home, a window burst and spewed glass.

        “They're heroes,” Mrs. Lantry said. “I honestly believe with all my heart that if they hadn't acted so fast, I'd be in the hospital right now.”

        Mr. Davis was glad to have been running late Tuesday.

        “No one else would have been here to know,” he said. “I guess something told me something was going to happen.”

        Electricity was turned off at the three damaged homes after the fire. Mr. Davis plans to stay at his home. The Lantry family expected to stay with relatives.

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