Deputy Terry Dabney had no idea he was about to experience a first in his 13-year career with the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office or that he would be recognized for what he considers his job.
It was the evening of Jan. 18, 2018 when Dabney had responded to a call on Fourth Street in Luling and was leaving when saw smoke billowing out of the roof of a house as he turned onto Paul Maillard Road. He rushed to the scene at 722 Paul Maillard Road, confirmed the house was on fire and called for backup.
“They had some people start to come out of their houses and saw the flashing lights,” Dabney said.
Neighbors told him three children and their mother lived in the house that was burning.
What Dabney did next earned him the recognition as VFW Post 3750’s Safety Officer of the Year.
At the scene, the officers decided to breach the door of the residence. Now, accompanied by deputies Isaac Genova and Erin Flynn, they entered the burning house.
“We didn’t even think about it,” Dabney said. “There were people in there and we were doing what we needed to do. We were crawling on our stomachs and shortly after making entry, we saw a body.”
Although it was difficult to tell exactly where they were in the house, Dabney felt confident they were near or in the living room. The woman, Keisha Davis, was carried outside to safety.
“The female was unresponsive and burned on several parts of her body,” Dabney said. “I was thinking the kids were inside.
“I wanted to save the kids … thinking they’re going to die if I don’t get in there.”
They attempted to re-enter the front entrance, but were driven back by heavy smoke and flames shooting out the front door. Instead, they busted a rear bedroom window with Dabney and Sgt. Jose Alvarenga both cutting their hands on the glass. Even with injuries, they tried to enter, but couldn’t do it.
The Luling, Paradis and Hahnville volunteer fire departments, representing about 35 firefighters, followed on the scene. They also went to work hoping to find the children possibly trapped inside the residence, but did not find them either despite multiple searches.
A neighbor then told them all three were with a nearby relative that night.
“It was a great relief … like a weight was lifted off my chest,” Dabney said.
But it wasn’t until he was at the hospital getting stitches in his hand that he had time to reflect on what had just happened.
“Everything came full circle about what really happened,” Dabney said. “You don’t think about it until after the fact.”
According to Sheriff Greg Champagne’s nomination of Dabney, “Ms. Davis’ survival is without a doubt a direct result of the immediate actions of Deputy Terry Dabney and assisting officers who put their own lives at risk to save her life.”
The woman was airlifted from St. Charles Hospital to Baton Rouge General Hospital’s burn unit for treatment.
And, later, when he and Davis saw each other on Barton Avenue, she thanked him.
“She came give me a hug,” he said. “She stopped to tell me, ‘Thank you for saving my life.’”
This is when Davis told him about the skin grafts she had received while in care and that she was doing fine.
For Dabney, there was great appreciation for being able to do his job.
It was also actually an answer to a prayer that he says every day before coming to work where he asks God to protect them and bring them home.