A brave teen saves the lives of a mom and three children by pulling them from a burning car

An ordinary trip to the local Walgreens turned unexpectedly dramatic for 18-year-old Justin Gavin, and extremely fortunate for a young family.

Walking down the street, he saw something that made him stop in his tracks. A small SUV drove past him, and it was covered in flames. His heart leapt, particularly when he saw children inside the car.

Drivers were honking their horns and getting out of their cars to get the attention of the woman driving the burning car. However, it quickly became apparent that she could not stop the vehicle.

Waterbury Police Department

By this time, the Waterbury Police Department had already received several calls about a car on fire with a woman trapped inside. However, without an officer on the scene, Gavin immediately went into action.

He chased the car down the street to help the family escape the burning car. “I’m yelling stop the car! Your car is on fire! Your car is on fire! I just felt like if I was in that situation, I would want somebody to help me out,” he said. I guess my instincts took over.”

Gavin finally reached the car when it came to a full stop. Without thinking, he helped the mother out of the driver’s seat first. With the flames growing, he pulled three children, ages 4, 9, and 1, out of the back seat. The flames quickly engulfed the car moments later.

Waterbury Police Department

In a video of the account posted on the police department’s Facebook page, Captain Michael DaSilva shared, “As the flames grew larger, Justin pulled all three of the kids from the car, including a 1-year-old baby in a car seat.”

Gavin said, “It kind of got scary because I didn’t know whether I was going to be able to get everyone out in time. And luckily, I did.” Officials say the mother credits the teen for saving her family.

Gavin follows in the footsteps of other ordinary citizens turned superheroes. In July, Antonio Morgan witnessed a car crash while driving on the I-70 interstate in St. Louis, Missouri. The good Samaritan immediately rushed to the burning car and helped drag the driver out of his seat. From a regular drive on the highway, Morgan turned to be a guardian angel for someone in extreme danger.

Waterbury Police Department

Spagnolo said, “One of the things I do to recognize people’s heroic feats or excellent work, I provide them with what’s called a challenge coin. It’s just to acknowledge this heroic act that you conducted today, and just a token of my appreciation for you being a great member of this community.”

Later that same day, the Waterbury Police Department recognized Gavin’s selflessness and honored him as a hero.

Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo awarded the teenager with a “challenge coin” to acknowledge his courage and quick thinking. The coin is usually only given to officers who demonstrate an act of bravery.

Waterbury Police Department

Spagnolo said, “One of the things I do to recognize people’s heroic feats or excellent work, I provide them with what’s called a challenge coin. It’s just to acknowledge this heroic act that you conducted today, and just a token of my appreciation for you being a great member of this community.”

He added, “I hope that when you have that coin it just reminds you of this day and you can reflect back on all the good that came out of this for you and that family that you saved. Any time you can always look at that time and reflect back on this great moment in your life.”

Gavin not only saved four lives, but he also gained a new perspective of the police. He said that the whole experience has been inspiring and life changing and, “It made me realize life is short.”

Watch the Waterbury Police Department honoring Justin Gavin in the video below: