SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald
Wednesday was the first time they had seen each other since that frigid night when he rescued her from the site where her family’s home had exploded Feb. 21 near Lemon Reservoir.
Bobby Fuller, the Mesa Propane serviceman called out on a propane leak, hugged 9-year-old Cameron Kelley and fought back tears.
“She looks great,” he said as the two posed for photos at a Red Cross event to honor them. “It’s good to see her.”
Cameron said she took the day off from Riverview Elementary School to have a new cast put on.
“I’m doing pretty good,” she said.
Each year, the local chapter of the Red Cross holds an event to highlight local heroism. This year there was no shortage of candidates. Fuller received the adult lifesaver award and Cameron received the youth lifesaver award.
Fuller responded to the Kelley home at about 8 p.m. that February night.
When he arrived, he found the home had exploded, and all that remained was a pile of debris. Fuller grabbed his flashlight and began looking for survivors.
He found Cameron in the front seat of her parent’s truck with a broken leg.
She had dug herself out of the rubble and looked for a way to clear debris and search for her parents. She crawled into the truck for warmth and tried to start the vehicle to go to her grandmother’s house for help.
But she was too short drive the truck, and her broken leg prevented her from pushing in the clutch.
After Fuller found her and tried unsuccessfully to find her parents, he drove the girl to her grandmother’s house and called for help.
“For all the things that you did that night ... we are grateful, and we want to name you our adult lifesaver,” said Cindi Shank, executive director of the local chapter of the Red Cross.
Miraculously, her parents, Tim and Karen Kelley, were extracted from the rubble alive and are recovering in a Denver-area hospital. Her mother is expected to be released today to return to Durango. Her father is expected to be released in the near future to visit Durango, but he will have to return for further medical procedures.
Tim has undergone several surgeries on both of his legs. Karen suffered burns and has undergone a couple of skin grafts.
Shank said Cameron’s focus on helping her parents despite her own injury earned her the award.
“I don’t think that she realizes that she’s only 9 years old,” Shank said.
At the awards ceremony, Cameron wore a red dress and retained a white cast on her left leg. She moved easily on crutches.
The Red Cross also honored John Glover, Joey Thompson and Ryan Barthel, friends of the Kelley family who helped find the family dog.
Rocko, a 6-year-old chocolate Labrador, was found buried underneath the debris about 16 hours after the blast. He suffered smoke inhalation, cardiac arrhythmia and blunt trauma to the head.
Firefighters took the dog to the Riverview Animal Hospital, where he made a full recovery with the exception of blindness in his left eye. The dog wagged his tail and caught treats tossed Wednesday morning by Cameron.
Glover, Thompson and Barthel were given the animal lifesaver award.
The family cat, Tippi, was found alive 17 days after the explosion. Tippi also is expected to make a full recovery.
“We have a lot of awesome things that came out of this one incident,” Shank said.
The fifth annual “Breakfast of Champions” was held at the Elks Club in Durango.
The awards are intended to recognize everyday citizens who do something extraordinary, Shank said.
“Anybody can step up and be a hero,” she said. “You just need to be able do something extraordinary at a time when you don’t think you could. We think there are heroes hiding in everybody, and all it takes is a circumstance.”
Several other awards were presented at Wednesday’s breakfast:
The adult lifesaver award was presented to Brady Rowland, who saved her mother, Jan Murphy, from a house filled with carbon monoxide. A car accidently was left on in the garage, which flooded the home with fumes.
Rowland called her mother on the phone but got no answer. She tried several more times, and decided something wasn’t right. She raced to her mother’s home and found her unconscious on the floor. Murphy was taken to Mercy Regional Medical Center and flown to Denver for further treatment. She has made a full recovery.
“Brady’s persistence as a daughter who just knew something wasn’t right paid off in the gift of her mother’s life for a long time to come,” the Red Cross wrote of Rowland’s actions.
Durango Police Department officers Brad Roach, Don Cummings and Rita Warfield received the professional lifesaver award for using an automated external defibrillator to help revive a man who suffered a cardiac arrest.
The officers arrived within two minutes of the dispatch, and were successful in keeping the man alive.
“According to the medical personnel on scene, if these officers had not acted as quickly as they did, the gentleman’s chance for survival might have been drastically different,” the Red Cross wrote.
Robin Duffy-Wirth and Lisa Allen received the friend of the Red Cross award for being volunteer instructors in CPR and first aid. Both operate the SunUte Recreation Center in Ignacio and teach local lifeguard and swim instructors.
Project Linus won the community hero award for its dedication to provide handmade blankets for children who have been traumatized or suffered serious illness. The group has 24 active members and provides the blankets at no cost.