Using a plastic shovel, neighbors in Norfolk save woman from burning home


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – With her smoke alarm blaring, Danyell Taylor woke up early Wednesday morning in a panic and choking on smoke.

“I was scared for my life,” she said. “I barely could breathe. I couldn’t do anything. I felt as if I was going to collapse at that point.”

Just outside her bedroom, a fire was spreading from the kitchen just after 5 a.m at her home on Lois Lane. She says she had nowhere to go with thick smoke filling the air.

“I started screaming, ‘Help! Help! Help! Somebody help me! I got to get out of here!’” Taylor recalled.

Earl Hagans, who lives in the apartment behind Taylor in the same building, heard her cries for help. 

“I put my ear to the wall and I heard her in there hollering, but I didn’t know what was going on,” said Hagans, who came outside to find a passerby banging on Taylor’s front door.

The commotion alerted next door neighbors Yvonne Williams and Vanessa Harvey to the fire.

“I said, ‘Danyell is not going to die here on my watch. Not my neighbor,’” said Williams. 

Williams says Taylor’s voice was weakening by the time she got to her bedroom window. She then picked up a plastic shovel and busted the glass.

“I stuck my arm in and I said, ‘Danyell, do you feel me? Do you feel my hand?’ She said, ‘No, just help me. Just get me out.’”

With the help of Harvey, the two women held the handle of the shovel inside a cloud of smoke and instructed Taylor to grab on.

“We just kept pulling and pulling and when we finally saw her face it was like thank you, Jesus,” said Harvey.

Taylor says she was able to stick her head out the window for air. Minutes later, firefighters lifted her to safety.

“I feel like I owe them my life,” said Taylor. “They saved me. If it hadn’t been for them, I would not be standing here right now.”

The walls inside the home are covered in soot. The kitchen walls are busted out where firefighters attacked the flames.

“I’m just going to have to start all over,” said Taylor, who expects to be out of her home for two to four months.

Taylor says she lost many things due to the smoke and water damage, but she is optimistic she’ll be able to recover some belongings.

“I just feel like God had me covered … and I’m just thankful to be here.”

Taylor says the fire started in an outlet by the stove, which she says she turned off a few hours earlier after cooking dinner.

Fire officials tell the fire was accidental, but investigators are still working to determine the official cause.

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