McAllen Border Patrol agent honored for saving children from burning car

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An act of courage one fateful day earned a border agent from the Rio Grande Valley an honor few are bestowed thanks to his efforts saving the lives of two young girls who, without him, may have perished.

The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission announced on Monday the names of 16 recipients of the 2023 Carnegie Medal, one of which is a McAllen Border Patrol agent who saved two children from a burning vehicle nearly three years ago.

Agent Brady Pratt is being awarded the Carnegie Medal for saving two girls, at the time an 8-year-old and her 1-year-old cousin, from a burning vehicle following a fatal head-on collision in Petronilla, Texas, on Dec. 20, 2020.

Established in 1904, the Carnegie Hero Fund recognizes outstanding acts of selflessness and heroism in the U.S. and Canada. The medal has been awarded to 10,371 people since the inception of the Pittsburgh-based fund.

According to the 35-year-old Carnegie Medal recipient, he was on his way to Corpus Christi with his family when they came across a “commotion” after they saw smoke in the distance.

“It was basically just like any other day,” Pratt said. “You know, vehicle driving, having fun with the family when we came across that.”

Pratt said it was his wife who was sitting in the passenger seat who noticed the smoke was coming from a vehicle that was on fire.

It was later learned that a male driver was driving erratically on the road before colliding head-on with the vehicle carrying both children, who Pratt would eventually rescue.

Pratt’s initial thoughts were that it was simply a vehicle that had caught fire due to the Texas heat, but his wife realized it was a crash and that people needed help.

“I’m sure I would’ve got off to help, but you know, as a good husband listening to my wife, [she] was like, ‘Hey, it’s an accident,’ she said I think there’s still people inside, you need to go help,” Pratt said.

U.S. Border Patrol agent Brady Pratt of the McAllen office is seen with his K-9. He was recently recognized for saving two young girls from a fiery car. (Courtesy Photo)

It was then that Pratt pulled his vehicle to the side of the road and ran to help.

According to Pratt, the vehicle driven by the male was completely engulfed in flames. The driver was already dead.

The SUV with the two children inside was also on fire and emitting smoke. Both the driver and passenger, who were sisters and the mothers of both girls, were dead as well.

When Pratt approached the scene, he saw a man attempting to break the windows of the SUV. He had already broken the rear windshield.

That was when Pratt overheard another man say there was a baby in the vehicle and began to notice most of the people there were waiting for help to arrive, but Pratt knew help was too far away.

He began the rescue by entering the rear windshield, expecting there to be only one child in the vehicle. But to his surprise, there were two.

“When I got in there, there were two of them,” Pratt said. “The 8-year-old was talking to me, so I went to take her out first because I thought she’d be the easiest, but she said, ‘No, no, don’t move me, my leg is broken.’”

Pratt noted that the girl was extremely calm and cool considering the circumstances. He was expecting screams upon rescuing the girls but the two children weren’t panicked.

“That little 8-year-old girl, I can remember vividly, she was as cool, calm and collected as you could imagine,” Pratt said. “She wasn’t crying, there was no tremble in her voice.”

Pratt listened to the child and decided to first extract her younger cousin from her car seat but it was at an awkward angle.

He said he needed to give himself a pep talk because he had begun to inhale some smoke. Pratt told himself to stay calm and reassured himself about how to unbuckle the car seat, which he did every day for his son.

Once he removed the baby, he handed her to a woman standing by the SUV and focused on removing the 8-year-old without causing her too much pain, which would be impossible had he rescued her through the rear as he did with the younger child.

Pratt noticed a man with a golf club and instructed him to smash open the window in order to pull out the girl who was still trapped inside.

“He smashed it and I broke it all apart and then I pulled her out of there pretty easily,” Pratt said.

The off-duty agent, with adrenaline pumping through his body, handed the 8-year-old to his wife, who’s a nurse, and ran to his truck to retrieve a medical bag he always carries with him in order to splint the girl’s broken leg, but she began to beg Pratt’s wife not to leave her.

His wife decided not to splint her leg and stayed with her as EMS arrived.

Following the heroic rescue, Pratt began to ask people to move away from the burning vehicles.

Pratt feels honored to have been awarded the Carnegie Medal as one of the 10,371 who have earned the recognition.

“It’s unfortunate the circumstances … but I’m glad I was there that day to help these kids and their surviving family,” Pratt said.