PALMETTO, Miss. (WTVA) - Seven months after a fire destroyed their home and sent their youngest son to the hospital, a Lee County family is reunited with the firefighter who rescued their baby.
In June, WTVA reported on the life-saving award received by Wink Briley, assistant fire chief of the Palmetto-Old Union Fire Department, for his role in saving the life of a 7-month-old after a house fire on Dec. 27, 2018.
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At the time, Briley said his department, the Shannon Volunteer Fire Department and the South Lee Volunteer Fire Department, had been looking for the family because they knew they lost everything.
Moments after that report, Jessica Cruz said she received several messages about Briley and his outreach.
Cruz said her first thought was she and her family needed to find Briley.
Two days later, Briley received a call he will not forget.
"I received a call through 911 to get in touch with the Shannon Police Department. So I called, and she was there," Briley said. "I did talk to her, and all she said was, 'Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.'"
Over the weekend, all three fire departments hosted a reunion for Cruz, her family and Briley.
Briley said seeing the infant Sebastian, now 13 months old, was completely different from the first time he saw him at the scene of the house fire.
He described the seven-month difference as a miracle.
According to Sebastian's parents, they take him to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, for check-ups, but overall, he is in excellent health.
"The nurse told me he wanted to live and that he's a warrior," Sebastian's father, Jose Maldonado, said. "[The nurse said] he wouldn't give up without a fight."
It was an emotional reunion. As Sebastian's family carried him to the reunion, Briley immediately took him into his arms.
"I'm eternally grateful for [Briley] bringing back my angel," Maldonado said.
Firefighters from all three volunteer fire departments attended the reunion at the Palmetto-Old Union Fire Department and provided food for Sebastian's family.
According to Palmetto-Old Union Fire Chief Jeff Pearson, Southern Sales and Rentals donated a bounce house/water slide and a snow cone machine for the event.
During the event, each volunteer fire department presented a check to Sebastian's family to help cover some of the cost after losing almost everything in the fire.
"All the funds were raised by the three fire departments combined, as well as members of the department," Pearson said.
"They are brave people, and they deserve respect from all of us," Maldonado said. "Thank you to all who helped us and who were with us in supporting my family."