Deputy injured in Flora fire improving, mother released from hospital
FORT WAYNE, Ind – A Carroll County Deputy, who was badly injured in Monday’s fatal house fire in Flora, is showing signs of improvement, according to the county’s Sheriff.
Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby says doctors are keeping Deputy Drew Yoder calm, sometimes sedated, as they monitor the deputy’s lungs. Deputy Yoder sustained burn damage inside his lungs during his heroic attempt to save the four girls who died in Monday morning’s fire. While the Deputy has a long road to recovery, the Sheriff says the news he’s getting from doctors and family is encouraging.
“It’s day-by-day, minute-by-minute, but they’re optimistic with what they’re hearing,” Leazenby said.
While the Sheriff is confident Deputy Yoder will recover, it’s too early to know if it will be a 100-percent recovery. Injuries of this type can result in lifelong medical complications, the Sheriff said. But he has also heard of first responders who have made complete recovery from lung burns.
From his hospital room, Deputy Yoder wrote a short note to Flora Police Officer Joshua Disinger, who pulled Yoder from the burning house Monday morning. The note simply said “U saved my life Josh.”
“Had it not been for Officer Disinger being there, I think the outcome would be, obviously, quite a bit different,” Leazenby said.
Sheriff Leazenby said he became emotional when he learned of the note.
“I honestly became even more optimistic,” Leazenby said. “And knew that the prayers that the whole community and in essence the whole state has been offering, that God is coming through in answering them.”
Leazenby said Yoder has also written other notes to family, friends and fellow department members. Some of the notes have been humorous, referencing inside jokes. The Sheriff sees that as another positive sign, because Yoder is known for his sense of humor.
“I obviously know Drew, and so I thought ‘we’re getting our Drew back,’” he said.
Leazenby also says the 25-year-old Deputy has youth and his physical fitness working for him.
“Highly energetic and a go-getter. A fighter in a positive way,” he said. “When he took his physical agility test to join our department, he led the pack as far as the running aspect of it.”
Sheriff Leazenby says Deputy Yoder is aware that the girls he was trying to save Monday morning did not survive the fire. He says situations involving victim fatalities can often cause first responders to second guess their actions, wishing they could have done something differently. He hopes that won’t be the case with Deputy Yoder, who knowingly ran into the burning house to save the girls.
“One of my concerns is that he’s potentially going to beat himself up as far as the outcome of this,” he said. “And obviously it is not his fault.”
State and local investigators announced Tuesday they believe the Flora fire started behind a refrigerator in the kitchen, but the cause is not known. The fire took the lives of Kionnie Precious Welch, 5; Kerriele Danyell McDonald, 7; Kayara Janell Phillips, 9; and Keyana Latrice Davis, 11
Family friends and hospital officials said the mother of the four deceased girls, Gaylin Rose, was released from Eskenazi Hospital Wednesday. Rose had suffered smoke inhalation in the fire. Family friends said Rose would be staying with family for the time being, as funeral arrangements for her daughters are being made.
As doctors continue to treat and monitor Yoder, support from the community continues to pour in. Sheriff Leazenby says he’s been overwhelmed by the number of calls and texts of support from multiple law enforcement and public safety agencies. Families and businesses are donating money, food and gas cards for those making the drive to and from Fort Wayne. The Fraternal Order of Police is also paying for hotel rooms in Fort Wayne so Yoder’s family members can stay close by.
“I thank everyone, honestly and sincerely, from the bottom of my heart as Sheriff of Carroll County for what they’ve done,” Leazenby said.