As a black cloud billowed over the rooftop, flames crawled up the walls of the house in southern Columbia. Thick, toxic smoke filled the room, making it difficult to see to the other side. For two MU students, survival came at the hands of firefighters.
On April 3, that nightmare was reality for Skylark Lane resident John Rubin and guest Cody Boswell.
“The fire had such a head start on us,” said Battalion Chief Steve Sapp. “When we got there, we had very heavy involvement of fires throughout the roof and the second floor, where two of the victims, John and Cody, were.”
Sapp and three other firefighters, Dave Richerson, Doug Thoma, and Jim Kandlik, were on hand Friday at the Missouri Auto Auction for the presentation of a $5,000 check to University Hospital’s George David Peak Memorial Burn Care Center.
Boswell’s father, Gregg, owns the auction center east of Columbia and another in Kansas and raised the money through donations and auctions of special items, such as signed memorabilia from NASCAR driver Carl Edwards.
Originally the burn center and the fire department were each to receive half of the money, but the fire department, which does a lot of fundraising for the burn center, donated its share to the hospital. Boyd Terry, associate director of the burn unit, accepted the check.
“We care for a lot of people who have no resources whatsoever, so we’re always happy to have some help in terms of getting equipment or special needs that we have,” Terry said.
Boswell said that he was trapped in the burning house for about 50 minutes. No one at the scene knew how many people were left inside or where they were, so firefighters made repeated sweeps of the house to locate trapped victims.
“We’re so fortunate to have all these people in town,” Boswell’s mother, Dagmar, said of the firefighters.
The ceremony was the first time Boswell and Rubin met their rescuers. Boswell said it was important for him to give a little back to the firefighters and the hospital because they had done so much for him. If they hadn’t been there to help, Boswell said, he wouldn’t be alive today.
“Honestly, I don’t think firefighters get the respect they deserve,” Boswell said.
At the time of the fire Boswell, 22, was a junior at MU. After recovering in the hospital for nearly a month and a half, he was allowed by MU to take his exams and wrap up the spring semester.
Boswell is planning to take online college courses until he returns to MU, probably in the fall of 2006. He’s a business major but is thinking about changing his major to sociology.
Rubin, 23, graduated from MU with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. Now, he is looking for a job and open to anything life has to throw at him, Boswell’s mother said.
Rubin and Boswell were good friends before the fire, but now, Boswell said, the bond is even stronger. He said also he talks almost daily to Sabrina Padgett, who was hospitalized overnight for smoke inhalation.
Dagmar Boswell said she is proud of the two young men and how they have dealt with the situation.
“These boys went through hell,” she said. “Now they both have a very positive outlook.”