Laurens County, SC – The 16-year-old daughter of a Laurens County sheriff's deputy is being called a hero after she fearlessly raced in to save her father when he became engulfed by flames on June 9.
Laurens County Sheriff's Deputy Ralph Braswell and his younger daughter, Arianna, ran into vehicle problems at about 2 a.m. that day, and ended up calling his wife, Darlene, to come get them, GoLaurens reported.
But while Darlene and their 16-year-old daughter, Summer, were on their way to the location of the vehicle breakdown, a tree fell across the roadway, blocking their route.
During the delay, Deputy Braswell, 55, began trying to fix his disabled vehicle.
They pulled up just in time to see the car’s engine exploded while he was working under the hood.
The flames instantly ignited the deputy’s hat and upper body, WHNS reported.
“You could not see a human – it was just straight-up flames,” his wife recalled. “A ball of flames running.”
Without hesitation, Summer raced towards her father and began extinguishing the blaze.
"I was consumed with the flames and I did not know until after the fact that she was patting on me,” he later told WHNS.
Deputy Braswell was rushed to the Jason M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Georgia with burns to 44 percent of his body, including his hands, head, torso, and face, The Laurens County Advertiser reported.
"Medics, the hospital, the doctors have all said had she not [helped him], this could have been a lot worse – a lot,” Darlene told WHNS. “It was horrible, horrible but she did it. She did it.”
Summer has been living with Darlene and Deputy Braswell for the past five years, and was adopted by the couple during that time.
Arianna, 12, was adopted by them as well, The Laurens County Advertiser reported.
"They have gave me love that I’ve never had before,” Summer told WHNS. “They care about me. And if it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where I would be.”
She said she doesn’t think of her actions as being heroic – she just did what she needed to do to save the father she loves.
“People were calling me a hero but I just did what anybody would do and at the moment in time when there is nothing else you can do but to be there and help,” Summer said.
Deputy Braswell said he is grateful that his daughter jumped into action when it mattered most.
"[I] told her I loved her and I appreciated it and I really mean that,” he said. “I’m thankful I’m alive, I’m thankful that it is no worse than it is. I mean it is bad, but you know I should heal up from it and get back to work because I enjoy my job.”
Deputy Braswell joined the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) approximately one year ago after a long farming career, The Laurens County Advertiser reported.
Although he was initially released from the burn center to recover at home, complications have arisen that required him to return to the facility in Georgia.
Darlene said that the deputy’s face began to swell due to an infection that also raised his body temperature.
“Right now, my main focus is getting him taken care of,” she explained. “I’m trying to keep everything together.”
Darlene said the community has rallied around the family to help support them through Deputy Braswell’s long road to recovery.