Deputies, troopers speak about life-saving rescue at motel fire scene

Updated: Jan. 14, 2021 at 4:32 PM EST
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TOWN OF WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - What was it like to crawl around a smoke-filled motel room feeling for a man inside? Two state troopers and two Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies sat down with 7 News to talk about that life-saving rescue at the Relax Inn Motel earlier this week.

“Never in a million years thought - what we were going to find on the other side of that door,” said Deputy Christian Hughes.

It was supposed to be routine. Deputy Hughes, Deputy Nick Curtiss, Trooper Sean Iles and Trooper Joseph Fay were called to the Relax Inn Motel around 1 a.m. Monday to investigate a noise disturbance.

But they quickly realized something was wrong.

“We knocked on his door and just heard a bunch of mumbling; stuff that wasn’t making any sense to us,” said Iles.

“In the moment, I thought he was having some sort of medical emergency,” said Hughes.

The officers quickly got the keys from motel management and opened the door.

“Black smoke just started pouring out of the room, hit us right in the face, pouring out of the room and started rolling down the hallway,” said Hughes.

Instincts kicked in. Deputy Curtiss started evacuating the building and called for first responders. The other officers dropped to the ground and army crawled their way in.

“When we dropped down is when you can see a little bit. But anything above those couple inches, you couldn’t see at all,” said Fay.

The officers entered the room in uniforms, with no protective equipment. But, they said there was no hesitation from anyone.

They located 55-year-old Robert Murphy on the bathroom floor, right by the main entrance. Getting him out was challenging. “When we were trying to drag him out, he kept hitting the door, so it would close the door. So, we kind of had to like maneuver him around the front door,” said Fay.

Curtiss returned to help the others. After spending about 5 minutes in the smoke-filled room, the officers finally carried Murphy to safety. But the officers say it felt like an eternity.

“I think the amount of smoke we were taking in, we were definitely running out of time to get him out of there,” said Hughes.

And the night wasn’t over. Deputy Hughes as well as troopers Iles and Fay were taken to Samaritan Medical Center for smoke inhalation. Deputy Curtiss stayed behind.

“It was tough, you obviously wonder how your fellow comrades are doing,” said Curtiss.

They’ve all been released from the hospital and are back to work.

Murphy was taken to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse with severe burns and smoke inhalation. He is in critical but stable condition.

The officers say they feel lucky they weren’t seriously injured. And while most would call them heroes, they say it’s all part of the job.

“I just don’t think we did anything that anybody else in our situation wouldn’t have done. This is our job,” said Hughes.

Before the fire, the officers described their relationship as colleagues. But Deputy Hughes says they now have a closer bond that they will carry with them for the rest of their careers.

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