They put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect their communities, and when we are in trouble, they are the first to respond.
Over the next few weeks, Channel 3 is profiling those who have gone above and beyond that call of duty.
In the first edition of Connecticut’s Brave, Channel 3 sits down with some heroic Clinton police officers.
Just after midnight back in September, more than 100 911 calls bombarded the dispatch center in Clinton.
The explosion was so powerful, debris landed miles away and the shock was felt several towns over.
Officer Greg Matakaetis was the first one there.
“Everyone was just running it was a lot of chaos,” he said.
“The neighbors were yelling at us, there are people that need help,” said Sgt. Todd Carlson.
Inside the flame-filled mobile home were two victims who were still alive.
“We couldn’t get to him. He was surrounded by fire. We couldn’t get within 30 feet of him,” Carlson said.
It’s those moments when they say the oath to protect pushes fear aside.
“The bottom of my boots were melted, lost part of my eyebrows, hair on my hands. We don’t have the proper gear and it’s frustrating to us because you see someone who is conscious and alert, you know they are in grave danger and they are about ready to die,” Carlson said.
Neighbors handed them fire extinguishers and with no protective gear, the officers cleared a path and ran into the burning home.
“Once they pulled him out of the fire a little bit, we all put him on a blanket and brought him down the street,” said Corporal Kyle Strunjo.
Then, they battled back through that intense fire to rescue his wife.
“It was a true moment of everyone running away and us, you know, we had people screaming you got to get them out. You got to get them out. So we knew what we had to do. We just had to figure out how to do it,” Matakaetis said.
Police said Leo and Candace Hinkley were airlifted to Bridgeport Hospital’s Burn Unit and passed away a few days later.
“I was having trouble dealing with why everything happened the way it did. We ended up losing them which hurt a lot. But one of the family members had thanked me and the other officers and I was like why? And they said you gave us a chance to say goodbye. So that meant a lot,” said Officer Nicholas Torino.
Like most of the men and women who dedicate their lives to serving they humbly shrug off being called a hero.
“Not even close. There are 27 guys here every single one of them would have done the same thing,” Torino said.
But there’s no question, what they did was brave.
“It’s also good to let the public know that at times like that, we’ll get the job done,” Matakaetis said.
“I’m proud to work next to guys like this, they inspire me,” Carlson said.
Fire investigators later found that the two people inside were attempting to commit suicide, and were manipulating the gas fireplace the day before.
The officers will receive medals for their life-saving efforts.
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