Thu | Feb 25, 2021

‘I was just trying not to panic’ - 21-y-o recalls brave act saving two lives which earned him national honour

Published:Tuesday | October 20, 2020 | 12:10 AMJonielle Daley/Gleaner Writer
George Jon-Andrew Bryan.
George Jon-Andrew Bryan.

On April 20 this year, George Jon-Andrew Bryan had just returned from the skate park and climbed on to the roof of his Boston, Portland, home to watch firefighters battle a wildfire that was consuming the hills.

“About half an hour later, I hear a scream. When I look up at my friend’s house, I see fire on the steps,” he recounted.

The 21-year-old said that initially, he thought the children were being reprimanded.

The brother of the little boys tried to lighten Bryan’s worry as he was convinced that the children were playing, but having seen the fire, he immediately went to investigate.

When Bryan arrived, half the house was engulfed in flames.

“I climbed over the railing and get inside, but me couldn’t see anything. When I bend down low under the smoke, mi see the baby dem foot, so mi try hold one a dem foot, and is like something burst and burn me,” he said, recalling the heroic act that earned him a Badge of Honour for Gallantry yesterday.

Determined to save kids

Although he was wearing just shorts and slippers and the ceiling was imploding, Bryan was determined to go back in, trying his best to remain calm.

“Mi go back in and try hol’ di two a dem foot. Only one a dem mi hol’ first, and me carry him and put him over the railing on the verandah, and me try go back, find the other one and put him outside,” said Bryan. “I was just trying not to panic.”

Yesterday, he was awarded for his act of courage and bravery in saving five-year-old Kevoy Panton and six-year-old Jamali Welsh from the raging inferno.

Before getting national recognition, the gallant young man was saluted by friends and community members for doing what many would have been fearful to even contemplate.

“I’m very thankful and appreciative. If it wasn’t for him, I would have lost my brother and my nephew,” said his friend, Kemoy Panton, who describes Bryan as a hero. “No one is going to see a fire and run towards it. Most people would just take out their phones and start videoing.”

However, Bryan disclosed that the incident has left him traumatised.

Even after receiving medical care, he continued to cry “because of the scene and how it happened”.

“It’s my friend’s house … . To know someone who lost so much [and] has nowhere to live, that’s a bad feeling,” he said. “To be honest, I try not to remember it. It brings back bad feelings to me. An elderly man was in the house, too, but I didn’t see him. I don’t even know how he came out.”

The College of Agriculture, Science, and Education student said that besides the trauma, he felt great to know that he was being honoured for his act of bravery, adding that his parents were very proud of him.

His only disappointment was that this year’s ceremony did not take its usual format for him to be presented with the honour amid pomp and ceremony at King’s House because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It would have been better if it was normal as always, but I just have to work with what it is now,” said Bryan.