Local Heroes

Local Heroes

Maintenance Men Save Woman from Burning Car

Mitch Cunningham and Dean Griffith set out to change light bulbs at Catoctin Elementary School Friday morning. Little did they know, they would save a life.

The Loudoun County Public Schools maintenance workers saved 25-year-old emergency-room nurse Deepti Antony from a burning car on Catoctin Circle in Leesburg.

CUNNINGHAM, 39, climbed down Catoctin Elementary School’s roof after a cafeteria worker said she smelled smoke. The electrician headed in the direction of the smell.

Griffith, 47, was working in the gym when he saw smoke rising from nearby trees.

"I took off across the parking lot and met Mitch halfway," Griffith said.

The two men encountered a burning car off the side of the road. They noticed a woman, Antony, in the driver’s seat dressed in scrubs. She waved her hand.

"The fire was spreading relatively quickly," Cunningham said. "We knew we had to get her out of the car."

Cunningham raced to the passenger-side’s rear door. He jerked the door open and climbed into the car.

"I asked her if she was alright," he said. "She said she didn’t know what happened."

Cunningham pulled Antony between the bucket seats of her car, and out the back door.

Antony yelled "my bag, my bag,"

"We thought she yelled ‘my baby, my baby,'" Griffith said.

The men noticed a car seat in the back seat of the car.

"We thought there was a baby in there," Griffith said. "Turns out she was yelling about her bag. We said ‘ma’am, your bag is gone.’"

The ambulance arrived quickly.

While ambulance workers attended to Antony, Cunningham and Griffith directed traffic.

"People were stopping behind the burning car, gawking," Griffith said. "We directed traffic until the Sheriff’s Office got there."

LOUDOUN COUNTY Public Schools facility director Bill Kohlster said Cunningham and Griffith bring good morale to the department.

Cunningham has worked for Loudoun County Public Schools as an electrician for six years.

"He’s an excellent technician," Kohlster said.

Griffith has worked for the school system for one month.

"He’s only been with us for a short time, but he’s made an impact on the department, professionally," Kohlster said.

Cunningham and Griffith not only impacted their department, but Antony’s life.

"Would I do it all over again," Griffith said. "I would have to and hope someone would do it for me."

Griffith didn’t think about the accident until later that night.

"If we decided to go to Purcellville instead of Leesburg that day, she wouldn’t be here," he said. "Talk about being at the right place at the right time."