ORLANDO, Fla. – Attorney General Ashley Moody on Thursday presented an award to an Orlando firefighter who rescued a Seminole County deputy from a fiery crash in March.
The Back the Blue award was given to Orlando Fire Department Lt. Benjamin Wootson, the first firefighter to receive the honor.
“It’s an honor in itself to be the first firefighter to receive this and ultimately it should be a testament of the Orlando Fire Department from the training that we all receive and how we act on- and off-duty,” Wootson said. “I want to thank my family for always supporting my daily shenanigans... and ultimately, I want to thank God for putting us in a position to where we were to inflict change on an individual’s life. If it wasn’t for my son taking his time trying to put his socks on for soccer, we wouldn’t have been where we were at the time that we were.”
Moody added that Wootson’s actions were a fine example of a “hero saving a hero” and could inspire younger people considering going into a career as a first responder.
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“(It’s) a fine example of what it takes to join the ranks of these amazing men and women that sign up to put their safety behind ours, to sign up to do a job that many wouldn’t or couldn’t do and we cherish and honor them every day,” Moody said.
According to fire officials, Wootson was off-duty driving his son to a soccer game on South Orange Boulevard near Sanford on March 25 when he witnessed the crash.
The Florida Highway Patrol said an SUV driven by Seminole County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Matthew Luxon had crossed the center line of South Orange Boulevard, traveled onto the southbound paved shoulder and slammed into a bridge.
The vehicle burst into flames while the guns and ammunition in the sheriff’s vehicle were going off.
Wootson promptly drove to the scene, ensured his son was safe in the car and pulled Luxon out of the burning vehicle in what was “nothing short of divine intervention,” according to Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma.
The sheriff said while that’s a call he never wants to receive, he was grateful that Wootson was there.
As was Luxon, who was in critical condition in the hospital after the crash. He has made a slow recovery and was in attendance at Wootson’s award presentation Thursday.
“Every night before I go to sleep, I get to tuck my two boys into bed. I pray that they grow into godly men, men who selflessly put others before themselves, even if that person is a complete stranger,” Luxon said. “Ben acted selflessly without hesitation to save the life of a complete stranger. If Ben had hesitated for only a few seconds, I would have been burned up with that car. Because of Ben, I’m still able to pray for my boys each night as I tuck them into bed. His actions have provided me the opportunity to watch my boys grow into men and to see my family grow.”
Orlando Fire Chief Charlie Salazar said because of Wootson’s talent and brave actions, he has been moved into a new position leading training at the station.
“We jump into action whether we’re on-duty or off-duty. And so he didn’t think about it twice,” Salazar said. “The brotherhood and the sisterhood is alive and strong and so we ask for them to support us and we support them and in times of need, we’re there for each other.”
Wootson and Luxon further said they’ve been bonded for life after this crash and look forward to the opportunity for their families to spend time together.
“We discuss that we’ll find a scenario in which I’ll fall down or something, I’ll have to call him for assistance and then we’ll call it even from that point,” Wootson joked.
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