AN ASPIRING firefighter has been hailed a hero after bursting into a burning building to try and rescue his neighbour from the flames.
Nathan Donlon valiantly tried to save the 58-year-old who suffered serious burns and remained in a serious but stable condition yesterday.
The 24-year-old from Playden Close, Whitehawk, ran into Robert Lodge, also in Whitehawk, during the early hours of yesterday morning.
The trapped man was taken to Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, with serious burns after the fire which is believed to have been started accidentally.
When Nathan – who said he had always ‘dreamed of running into a burning building to save someone’ – couldn’t gain access to the burning flat, he made sure all the other residents were evacuated.
He then sat outside the door of the flat until firefighters arrived and carried the man, who was unconscious, to safety.
The modest hero, who made the rescue attempt despite a suspected fractured kneecap and severe knee ligament damage, said he was woken up by what sounded like people throwing stones at a window.
He said: “When I saw the flames I just legged it over.
“I booted the first door down and then ran upstairs to the flat, but I could only just get it open.
“I knew there was someone in there because I could hear him gasping for air and struggling to breath.
“I think he must have been up against the door which is why I couldn’t open it.
“It was horrible knowing I couldn’t do anything, so I tried to make sure everybody else got out.”
He added: “When you’re a kid you always dream of running into a burning building and saving someone – I just thought this was my moment.
“I was thinking of applying to become a firefighter – now I’m definitely going to do it.”
Nathan’s mum Sandra Donlon watched in horror as her son ran down the road and immediately dialled 999.
She said: “Even with his knee he had to be the hero.”
Firefighters from Roedean fire station attended the incident at about 2am and were tackling the blaze for around three hours. A East Sussex Fire and Rescue spokesperson said there was no working smoke alarm in the property which caused the fire to spread quickly.