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I FOUGHT FOR MY LIFE

By STACY MOORE Monday, January 20 2014

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PARAPLEGIC Steve Brown just could not accept that his time on earth was over.

Faced with walls of flame as his house burnt before his very eyes and with no one to come to his rescue, the paralysed man decided not to surrender to the inevitable. He decided to fight for his life. He threw himself from his wheelchair and used both hands to drag himself slowly and painfully out of his home and a fiery death.

“One minute I was sitting in the gallery of my home relaxing in my wheelchair and the next thing I know, is I am feeling this intense heat behind me. When I turned around, I saw my entire house on fire,” the 51-year-old father of one told Newsday yesterday.

Recalling the events which changed his life for the worst as he lost not only his home at Commissiong Street in Mon Repos, but also his only means of mobility — his wheelchair, Brown said, “I was looking out from my gallery and singing a song as I always do. I lived alone so this was my usual evening time routine.

“I didn’t really smell anything to alert me to the fire. But I began to feel as though the room was giving off an extra heat. I looked back and that was it. The entire house behind me was on fire...bright fire,” Brown said.

“I felt the heat of the flames coming closer to me. Black smoke was surrounding me but I could not even think of the smoke. All I knew was that I had to get out of the house someway, somehow or I would die. It was simple as that,” he related.

Brown said he threw himself from off his wheelchair and used his hands to pull and drag himself while all around him, flames crackled and smoke billowed. “I just kept crawling. I pulled myself forward until I reached the steps in front of my house. I knew it was going to be hard but I had to fight for my life. I did not stop to think. I pushed the wheelchair out of the way and crawled down the stairs,” Brown said.

When he reached the middle of the staircase, the wheelchair came tumbling down hitting him on his head. “That did not stop me. The lash made me tumble down the stairs. I continued pulling and hauling myself. Even on the stairs, I could feel the heat behind me. I kept pushing my weight forward by using my hands,” Brown recalled.

Brown crawled, for what he said felt like hours but in reality were mere minutes until he was well away from his burning house and almost close to Commissiong Street. By the time Brown reached the roadway his hands and elbows were bleeding. “I didn’t even feel any pain. It’s only much later, that the pains came. It is a miracle that who cannot walk, am alive. I escaped from that burning house,” Brown said.

Continuing with his amazing story of how he fought to survive, Brown who spoke to Newsday while seated in the front passenger seat of a friend’s car, said he lay at the side of the road, raising himself up on one arm while using the other to flag down a passing motorist. “I saw the lights of this car and I began waving for help,” he said.

By this time, neighbours were alerted by the flames which burned bright in the Saturday night and ran to Brown’s assistance. A call was made to the police and fire department. But by the time firemen arrived, the house could not be saved.

Brown yesterday said his house was not wired for electricity and he used candles at nights. He believes a strong gust of wind may have knocked over a candle which ignited material around it which caused the blaze.

Brown lived in Mon Repos for the past 15 years. He was left paralysed from the waist down after damaging his spinal column in a fall from a tree in 1992. Since then Brown’s only means of mobility has been his wheelchair, which yesterday was a twisted piece of scorched metal lying in the ruins of his home.

According to a police report, the fire started about 8 pm in the bedroom area of the house. Brown said he was a taxi driver before the fall from the tree which left him paralysed. He survives on a disability grant. His vehicle which was parked in the yard was also gutted by the fire.

Brown has no family in the country as his daughter lives in the United States. Yesterday, this brave man said the weight of an uncertain future is bearing down on him.

“I am homeless. I cannot walk. For all of these years, I depended on no one. I lived my life as best as I could with what little I had. Now I have nothing. Not even a wheelchair to move around. If I can borrow a wheelchair I will be grateful. If someone could help me with shelter or food, I will be very grateful. I just don’t know how I will survive without my wheelchair and my home. I don’t know if I have the strength to start,” Brown said in a whisper, his voice breaking as the tears came.

Mon Repos Police officers are continuing investigations. Anyone willing to assist Brown in any way, can contact Newsday’s Bureau Office at 652-6533/652-8550.

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