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Dive in pool saved burned teen's life, paramedic says

By Rich Phillips, CNN
Paramedic Bobby Goss said the case of a teen set on fire was the worst called he's had.
Paramedic Bobby Goss said the case of a teen set on fire was the worst called he's had.
  • Firefighter-paramedic Bobby Goss says burned boy jumped in pool, screaming
  • Michael Brewer, 15, taken off ventilator, recovering from "horrific" burns
  • Burns cover 65 percent of Brewer's body
  • Dispute over bicycle, video game, $40 allegedly led teens to set Brewer on fire

Deerfield Beach, Florida (CNN) -- It's a call that no firefighter ever wants to have to answer.

For firefighter-paramedic Bobby Goss, it was the worst call of his four-year career. And when you hear the screams of 15-year-old Michael Brewer on the 911 calls, you know why this was such a horrific call for help. Michael Brewer had been set on fire.

"We saw the bushes on fire ... and we could hear the patient screaming at the pool," Goss said Tuesday.

Goss and five other firefighters with Deerfield Beach Fire Rescue were the first on the scene October 12 after Brewer was allegedly attacked by five of his friends, who poured alcohol over him and set him ablaze.

Brewer jumped into a pool to put out the flames. He remains in critical condition with burns over 65 percent of his body at Jackson Memorial Hospital Burn Center in Miami, Florida.

Tuesday, doctors removed the ventilator that kept Brewer alive for almost a month. He's now breathing on his own.

"He was sitting next to the pool, on a pool chair, with nothing but basketball shorts on. He was wet head to toe, and you could tell he was burnt," Goss recalled.

He immediately knew this was a bad call.

"We knew right away the helicopter had to be here," he said.

Video: Teen's burns called horrific

Fire Rescue workers were with Brewer for only a short time. They administered burn gels and pain medicine. Air Rescue landed in a parking lot down the street, and Michael Brewer was airborne in 13 minutes after rescuers arrived.

"He was very awake. Very coherent," Goss said.

"He was definitely in a lot of pain. He knew what was going on. Anytime we needed to ask him questions, he could calm himself down enough to answer questions. He gave us his address, his phone number, his mom's name. That kind of stuff," he said.

Sheriff's detectives say the attack on Brewer started over a video game and a bicycle. They say Brewer owed one of the boys $40 for a video game, and when Brewer didn't pay, one of the teens -- 15-year-old Matthew Bent -- stole Brewer's father's bicycle.

Brewer blamed Bent to police, who arrested the teen. The next day, Bent and four other teens found Brewer, authorities say, and surrounded him. Police say witnesses have told them that they called him a snitch before pouring alcohol on him and using a lighter to set him on fire.

Three of the five teens -- Denver Jarvis and Bent, both 15, and Jesus Mendez, 16 -- have been charged as adults with attempted second-degree murder and are being held without bail until they enter their pleas at their arraignment next week.

Running to the pool, it probably kept the flames away from his airway and face, and it put the fire out very quickly.
--Paramedic Bobby Goss

Two other teens, including a 13-year-old, have only been charged as juveniles with aggravated battery. However, they too, may still be charged as adults by prosecutors who are still investigating the case.

Investigators were unable to interview Brewer while he was on a ventilator. Detectives are hoping that the teenager can soon help piece together what happened to him and the level of involvement of all five of the suspects. This help determine whether any other charges will be filed.

Authorities say Mendez confessed to Broward County sheriff's detectives that he used the lighter to ignite Brewer, who ran about 100 yards to an apartment complex pool to save himself.

"I think the pool helped a lot," Goss said.

"Running to the pool, it probably kept the flames away from his airway and face, and it put the fire out very quickly."

As the Deerfield Beach Fire Rescue team worked to stabilize Brewer for transport, Goss had to make two phone calls. The first was to the hospital, to relay Brewer's vital signs and to make sure hospital staff understood the extent of his injuries. The second phone call was to Michael Brewer's mother.

"She was very upset, but I explained to her that 'he's awake and talking to us now,' but she'll never make it to the scene on time. He's going to be in the air before she ever gets a chance to get here," he said.

Thirteen minutes after firefighters arrived, Brewer was put on a gurney and rushed down the street to meet the Air Rescue helicopter.

Although Goss did manage to serve out the rest of his shift that day, he said, he was marked by what he saw.

"It was horrific and terrible, but that doesn't kick in until afterwards, until after [Brewer] was in the air. Then we could actually think about it for a second and realize how tough it was. ... He was a very tough kid."