by: Diana Davis Updated:GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. —
For the first time, Channel 2 Action News talked to the man who pulled a 2-year-old girl from a burning Gwinnett County home.
The fire gutted Avery Grimes’ Lawrenceville rental home on March 6.
The baby’s mother was at work at the time of the fire. The family friend, Wayne Knighton, was asleep in a guest room babysitting the child. The toddler woke up early and happened to crawl out of her crib, waking Knighton.
There was no sign of a fire, but as Knighton opened a hallway door, he told Davis that flames and smoke flashed over both of them.
“An explosion occurred, which knocked me back on top of her and after that I just looked around and I could see a path to our back door,” Knighton said.
Knighton crawled on the floor though the smoke and now raging fire to the back of the house holding Avery underneath. By then, Knighton said his back and arms were burned. He told Davis he had no time to be scared.
“At that point, I was just trying to get her out of the house. That was my main concern,” Knighton said.
When police called Avery's mom at work, all she knew was that there had been a fire and that her baby was on her way to the Grady Burn Unit.
“I've personally seen my parents go through losing a child and I could only think of the worst. It was terrifying,” said Avery’s mother Ashley Wilson.
Avery's hair and face were singed but she had had no other injuries. Knighton was critically burned on his back, shoulder and arms. He spent two weeks in the burn unit needing several skin grafts and six units of blood.
Wilson said Knighton has always been a close family friend but that now she loves him more than ever.
“Wayne is like a brother to me any way, you now. I love him anyway but this just makes me love him even more. He sacrificed himself, you know his back, for my child,” Wilson said.
Investigators said the fire started from an electrical short most likely in the attic.
Avery has only a small mark on her forehead. Knighton’s scars will be lifelong. Though he knows he saved Avery’s life, he told Davis that in a way, little Avery saved his.
If she had not been restless and crawled out of the crib, he said he might never have awakened.
“We saved each other, I mean if it wasn’t for her going into my room, I wouldn’t have been able to grab her up and get out of the house,” Knighton said.
Avery’s mom said she will never forget Knghton’s heroism and the blessings that her little girl’s life was spared.
“Every day is a blessing and I can’t, I will never take a moment with her for granted that’s for sure, because I never know when she may be taken away,” Wilson said.
The house is beyond repair, Wilson, Avery and Knighton have moved to another house. Knighton said it will be at least another six to nine months before he recovers.
Neither Knighton or Wilson have medical or renter’s insurance. They lost all their possessions in the fire and face thousands in medical bills. You can click on this link for information on a fund that has been set up to help.