‘He’s a hero:’ Mother thanks Orange County deputy who rescued toddler during apartment fire

Deputy rescued child during apartment fire

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Barbara Elemus said it’s been a rough couple of days after losing everything following an apartment fire in Orange County.

“The first time I seen the video I broke out in tears,” she said.

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Body camera video shows the moment Orange County deputy William Puzynski grabbed her daughter Sophia, 2, from the burning building.

She explained just how quickly things got scary.

Barbara Elemus and her daughter were saved from a burning building by Orange County deputy William Puzynski. (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

“In that moment, I was so scared but it’s so hard to talk about it because I didn’t know him. I didn’t even know he was a police officer at that point because my eyes were everywhere, and I knew I couldn’t jump with her. That was the worst thing,” she said.

[RELATED: ‘I had to save the baby:’ Orange County deputy rescues 2-year-old during apartment fire]

Elemus, who is a mother of four and lives with her sister, said the fire happened early Saturday morning at the Isles at East Millenia Apartments.

She explained Sophia suffered a minor burn from the fire but despite losing everything, she is grateful to be alive thanks to the first responders and Puzynski, who scaled the building to save the toddler without hesitation.

“When he said hand me the baby, I said get my baby um ... I remember just both of us just shaking because he didn’t want to drop her and she didn’t want to go and let me go so, it was just scary,” Elemus said.

Puzynski and Sophia reunited on Tuesday at the sheriff’s office and deputies surprised the little girl and her siblings with all sorts of toys and hugs.

“He means so much to me. If I had to save his life I will because he means the world to me right now. He’s a hero. He truly is,” she said.

Elemus’ coworkers are trying to get results for her family and have created a GoFundMe page to help them get back on their feet. To donate, click here.

About the Author:

Ezzy Castro is a multimedia journalist on News 6's morning team who has a passion for telling the stories of the people in the Central Florida community. Ezzy worked at WFOR CBS4 in South Florida and KBMT in Beaumont, Texas, where she covered Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Being from Miami, Ezzy loves Cuban coffee and croquetas!