Four Oklahoma teens had planned to spend the evening hanging out together. They had no idea that by the time the night would end, they would be running into a burning house to save the life of a 90-year-old neighbor.
Last month, Dylan Wick, Seth Byrd, Nick Byrd and Wyatt Hall – all between 14 and 17 years old – were at Hall’s home in Sapulpa, outside Tulsa, when they first noticed the smell of burning rubber. Then, they saw flames coming from the home of his elderly neighbor Catherine Ritchie.
The teens — all high school football players — wasted little time. Two of them broke into the house, and the other two called 911 and alerted the neighbors.
Ritchie was getting ready to go to bed when the fire began. According to a blog post written by her daughter, she tried to escape her room, but the smoke was so thick that she couldn’t find her way out.
Dylan Wick told CNN that Ritchie had made it to the hallway when Nick Byrd picked her up off the floor. Together with his brother Seth, they rushed her to safety.
Ritchie’s granddaughter Jennifer Sontag told CNN that Ritchie was shaken up by the fire, but is still the same calm and confident person she was before. At 90, Ritchie is an active volunteer with charities including The Salvation Army and The Boys and Girls Club and, until recently, she was delivering Meals on Wheels, Sontag said.
Wyatt Hall’s mother Cindy Hartin says that her son knew to check in on his neighbors, so she was not surprised that he and his friends acted so quickly and bravely when they saw the flames. Lynn Wick told CNN that her son Dylan has aspirations to be a firefighter and that goal is now stronger.
On her blog, Missy Ritchie Nicholas thanked the boys on behalf of her mother and her entire family: “Thank you for being the kind of young men who thought about another person above yourselves. Thank you for staying safe yourselves as well. Thank you to your parents who obviously raised you in such a way that lead to you making life saving and heroic decisions on behalf of someone else.”