Connecticut Teen Saves Mother and Her 3 Children by Pulling Them Out of Their Burning Car
Justin Gavin heroically put himself in harm's way to rescue the family of four on Wednesday
An 18-year-old from Connecticut is being praised for his heroic actions to save a family of four after he noticed their car had caught fire.
Justin Gavin spotted an SUV on fire as he walked down a local street on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Waterbury Police Department.
"I'm yelling, 'Stop the car! Your car is on fire! Your car is on fire!'" Gavin recalled to CNN.
At that point, the department had received several calls about a car on fire with a woman trapped inside. But without an officer on the scene, Gavin took it upon himself to run to the vehicle and help the woman to escape by opening its door.
"I just felt like if I was in that situation, I would want somebody to help me out," Gavin told the outlet. "I guess my instincts took over."
After rescuing the woman, Gavin noticed there were also three children inside the car, which was quickly becoming enveloped in flames.
"As the flames grew larger, Justin pulled all three of the kids from the car, including a 1-year-old baby in a car seat," Captain Michael DaSilva said in a video on the department's Facebook page.
Before the vehicle was overcome by flames, Gavin managed to save two of the woman's children — ages 1, 4 and 9 — from the backseat of the SUV.
"It kind of got scary because I didn't know whether I was going to be able to get everyone out in time," he told CNN. "And luckily, I did."
Later that day, Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo presented Gavin a "Challenge Coin" to honor his heroics. The coin is typically only given to officers who demonstrate an act of bravery.
"One of the things I do to recognize people’s heroic feats or excellent work, I provide them with what’s called a challenge coin," Spagnolo told Gavin in the department's Facebook video. "It’s just to acknowledge this heroic act that you conducted today, and just a token of my appreciation for you being a great member of this community."
RELATED VIDEO: NYC Firefighter Rescues Woman from Apartment Blaze in Dramatic Video
"I hope that when you have that coin, it just reminds you of this day and you can reflect back on all the good that came out of this for you and the family you saved," he continued. "Any time you can always look at that time and reflect back on this great moment in your life."
Gavin told CNN the experience left him with a singular, powerful lesson.
"It made me realize life is short," he said.