'Humble' deputies express pride, receive awards for saving girl from fire
By Patricio G. Balona
Published: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 11:25 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 11:02 p.m.
Two Volusia County deputies honored with medals Tuesday for their courage in saving a child from a burning Deltona home see themselves as humble servants of the community, Sheriff Ben Johnson said.
“Asked about what they did, they humbly said, ‘I just did what I was supposed to do,' ” Johnson said as he presented deputy Bryon Poteralski and Sgt. Michael Odgers with plaques and Medals of Valor.
But what the men did the morning of March 12 -- saving a 1-year-old girl from a burning home -- speaks of the deputies' bravery and reflects greatly on their colleagues and department, Johnson said.
“It's not often someone can say they risked their lives to save a child's life,” he added.
Odgers said he and Poteralski responded to a routine call of a structure fire. When they got at 2930 Bath St. shortly after 8:04 a.m., they saw flames and smoke billowing out of the house.
Odgers said Samantha Holley was standing outside the home with two small children crying out, “My house, my house.” Although Odgers and Poteralski had been told by dispatchers that everyone was out of the house, something made Odgers ask Holley three times if she was sure everyone was out.
“Something in me made me ask her if she was sure everyone was out,” Odgers said. “That was when she cried out, ‘My niece, my niece, she is in the house.' ”
As firefighters rushed to the scene, the sergeant and Poteralski said they knew they did not have a lot of time to find Shyann Norvitz.
Odgers tried to break into the house through a rear kitchen door but was forced back by flames and heavy smoke. Poteralski then went to a back room's window and broke it.
“I couldn't see anything in that room and I wasn't even sure I was in the right room,” Poteralski said.
“It takes someone special to go into a room where you can't see anything, knowing he had family of his own at home,” Odgers said of Poteralski.
Through the thick smoke Poteralski said he saw the small girl -- who looked like a doll -- in a crib and scooped her up. She was unresponsive and her nose was full of smoke and soot. He shielded the toddler from the heat and smoke and brought her to the window and handed her to Odgers.
“She was lifeless and I thought she had passed,” Odgers recalled. “As I was carrying her to the firefighters, I saw a couple snot bubbles and I knew she was still alive.”
That was a relief for the deputies, who thought they had lost the child.
“I could see Bryon's face light up,” Odgers said. “I am very proud of what he did and I am proud to work with him.”
Administrative offices: West Volusia 386-736-5961 Daytona Beach 386-254-4689 New Smyrna Beach 386-423-3352
Non-emergency dispatch numbers: DeLand 386-943-8276 Daytona Beach 386-239-8276 New Smyrna Beach 386-409-8276 Osteen 407-323-0151