HOME HELP FIRE HERO; Carer tells of pensioner rescue.
A HOME help who rescued a 71-year-old grandmother from a burning house told yesterday how she did not think twice before putting her own life at risk.
Sandra Cowan has been hailed a hero after she pulled the pensioner from the property which was engulfed with thick black smoke.
The 40-year-old South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust care worker revealed: "I opened the front door and the smoke came out and just hit me right up the face.
"The whole house was filled with smoke. I never hesitated."
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said Maureen Dorrian was just minutes from death.
The grandmother of three spent more than a month in hospital, including three days in the intensive care unit, recovering from the effects of inhaling smoke.
Ms Cowan said: "I looked on the bathroom floor and the kitchen floor because they are the first two you can see when you come in to make sure Maureen wasn't lying there.
"I just started to shout out her name a few times and she responded to me so I knew she was still conscious then.
"I called 999 for the fire brigade and ambulance and then came back in and got Maureen out of bed.
"I just put my arms underneath her and she was able to shuffle out with me holding on to her.
"She was quite disorientated. She was covered in smoke - all I could see was the whites of her eyes.
"She was cold and shivery so I put my coat around her."
The fire broke out accidentally in the kitchen of the house in Glenbrook Road, Newtownards, Co Down, which was completely gutted by the fire.
Mrs Dorrian had tried to escape but was beaten back by the intense heat and dense smoke.
Ms Cowan, who has eight years of experience as a care worker, is trained for all types of emergencies but added she never expected to have to deal with a fire.
She said: "You never think it is going to happen but we are always sent on courses just to keep it fresh on your mind.
"It just shows people really do need us coming into their homes."
The incident happened in February but Mrs Dorrian has only recently been discharged from hospital and allowed to return home.
The pensioner and her family added the swift actions of Ms Cowan undoubtedly saved her life. Mrs Dorrian said: "Sandra is great, she is a star. She got me in the garden.
"I was cold. And everybody in the glen was out."
Her daughter, Janice Andrews, 46, also paid tribute to Ms Cowan.
She added: "Sandra is just fantastic. Who knows what would have happened if she had arrived a few minutes later? We are just so grateful to her."
Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service district commander Stephen Boyd also praised Ms Cowan's courage.
He said: "She did everything right in getting the fire service and getting our assistance. It was very brave indeed."
on I shouted out her name - she responded so I knew she was conscious SANDRA COWAN
IN SAFE HANDS Maureen Dorrian and Sandra Cowan in Co Down yesterday