Man struggles after saving neighbor from fire

Thursday, October 23rd 2008, 9:03 am
By: News 9

By Doug Warner, NEWS 9

MIDWEST CITY, Okla. -When you help a neighbor, most are left with a pretty nice feeling inside. 

However for this week's Oklahoma Hero finalist, that nice feeling is overshadowed by heart-breaking depression and anxiety.

Steve Edwards is constantly reminded of May 5th, 2008 the night he saved his neighbor from a house fire.

"I've got a permanent reminder," he said. "It burned me across the palm here an up across the thumb."

Edwards said from inside his living room he could hear his neighbor Van riley screaming.

"I could see straight across the porch," Edwards said. "He was standing on his porch. He had set himself on fire."

Riley unknowingly lit a cigarette while his house was filled with gas fumes.  He stumbled out onto his porch as Edwards sprinted across the street.

"It took me a good two minutes or better to get him out," Edwards said.

Steve used blankets to smother the flames on Van. Then he did the same inside the house to extinguish the fire. 

"To me that's what a hero does," said Janice Edwards, who nominated her son for the Hero award.

Riley's injuries were so severe; he passed away a few days later.

"He felt like he let him down, that he should have done more," Janice Edwards said. "He had some emotional problems from it. Stephen is a person who holds it inside.  His own problems, he won't hardly talk about."

Local psychologist Dr. Stewart Beasley explains the often overlooked and negative side - of being a hero.

"The long term consequences are you have post traumatic stress," Beasley said. "So what happens, people react the best they can and coping but feeling like something is wrong with them because they can't deal with the stress that's there."

Beasley says the best medicine, is to talk about it with others.

About a month after van's passing, Steve Edwards was still struggling with the images of that night. That's when he decided to cross the street and have one final conversation with his neighbor.

"Well, I had to go over to his yard and have a chat with him at his house so I could get on with my life," he said. "I just talked to him and told him I did the best I could do."

His "best" is why his mother and Riley's family consider him an Oklahoma Hero.

"I'm very proud of what he did, very proud of the son I've raised," Janice Edwards said.

Riley's family said me even though he passed away, they were at least given that chance to say their goodbyes.

At the end of the nine week series, viewers will vote on for the 2008 NEWS 9 Oklahoma Hero.  Later in December, NEWS 9 will broadcast the 5 and 6pm newscasts live from the winner's hometown.