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Mariner Article:


After the tragic events of September 11, 2001 a newfound respect and understanding of our Nation’s rescue personnel was realized. These brave men and woman are often taken for granted; yet lay down their lives selfishly when called upon. The heroics of those fearless officers and firemen lead me to recall some of Brockton’s own.

On January 11, 1972 on a thick foggy morning at about 3:00 AM Brockton Police Officers John J. Donahue and his partner Arthur N. Blanchette were making their usual rounds. They came upon the Mariner block at 107 North Main Street next to the 3 story Alden Products building. Officer Donahue keenly spotted a glow in the northwest corner of the building, then a burst of flames. Blanchette swiftly radioed headquarters to alert them while Donahue raced to pull the fire alarm at North Main and Haverhill Streets. Next the two bravely entered the burning building. Officer Donahue made his way to the second floor landing all the while shouting and banging on the walls through the smoke and heat to wake the sleeping residents. The flames and smoke were so overwhelming he could go no further into the dwelling, however he was successful in rousing an apartment filled with children and 2 women. He led them to safety down the smoke filled stairs guiding them expertly with his flashlight. He was met halfway down the staircase by Brockton firefighters racing their way up. Soon the building was engulfed. Quickly Brockton’s’ ladder No.1 was on the scene and reached the heights to rescue those stranded above just in time with flames chasing them out. The fog and smoke so thick only screams could guide the ladder and the blinded rescuers. Only clad in night clothes groups of frightened residents were gathered and led to safety. Temporary shelter was afforded those fleeing the tragedy at the nearby Elks Home.

A total of 20 of the 22 residents safely escaped the horror. One lucky resident was known not to be home at the time of the blaze. The first to escape the fire was Patricia Sullivan. Others rescued were Mr. And Mrs. Donald English Jr., Mrs. Elizabeth Regal, Kristine Jensen (10), Kim Jensen (8), and Dale Jensen (6). Mrs. Mary Creasy and her guest Mrs. Sally Lemar along with 5 children were the occupants officer Donahue led to safety, the children being Michael Joyce (12), Bonnie Turpin (11), Robert Turpin (8), Joy Creasy (6), and Thomas Creasy (5). Also alerted by Donahue’s efforts were Gerald Vaughn, Rita Vaughn, and Richard Vaughn. Roger Hazel, Frank Takash, and John Crawford were also saved in the tragedy. Unfortunately, it was later determined the fire likely began in the room of 23 year old George Brassil Jr. who was the only person killed in the blaze. Deputy Chief William H. Cruise and firefighters Thomas D. Harrington of Eng. Co. 4 and Ernest U. Walbourne Jr. of Eng. Co. 3 discovered his body at 5:15 AM on the northerly side of the third floor. He was found lying on the floor next to a bed. The room was severely burned and the stairwell adjoining was completely burned away making any escape impossible that way. Due to the quick actions of Donahue and Blanchette a much worse tragedy was certainly avoided. The responding firemen too made it possible to swiftly save the remaining trapped.

Six area fire departments responded as well to cover the emptied city stations busy battling the blaze. Stoughton, West Bridgewater, Whitman, Easton, Abington, and Holbrook all volunteered their services. The American Red Cross responded as well, removing the survivors to the YMCA for temporary shelter from the Elks and also provided further assistance to the now homeless families of the fire. Richard J. Maino the owner of the Mariner Lounge and building said the blaze was a total loss. Days later the block was leveled for safety.

Enterprise story of rescue

For their heroics the Brockton Jaycees honored Donahue and Blanchette as policemen of the month. Mayor Wainwright said, “I want to personally commend patrolmen John J. Donahue and Arthur N. Blanchette for their quick action in rousing the occupants of the building, which was undoubtedly responsible for many lives being saved”, adding “They entered the building which was already largely involved in flames at substantial risk to their own safety.”

Our hero officer John J. Donahue, whom Brockton Mass Genealogy is dedicated passed away March 16, 1998 at Brockton Hospital of a fight with cancer.
by M. Morgan

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