DELPHI, Ind. – A Carroll County deputy who was injured trying to save children from a house fire spoke publicly about his recovery Friday morning.
Deputy Drew Yoder was hurt on Nov. 21, when he responded to a fire at a home in Flora. Yoder suffered burn damage in his lungs as well as burns to his hands and forehead.
Despite his efforts, four young girls, Kionnie Precious Welch, 5; Kerriele Danyell McDonald, 7; Kayara Janell Phillips, 9; and Keyana Latrice Davis, 11, died from their injuries after being trapped in the home.
Yoder was out of the hospital a week later. Carroll County Sheriff Tobe Leazenby said Yoder has made a full recovery and returned to duty on Dec. 21, 2016.
"I never thought about the risks. I just knew we had to get them," Yoder said about his attempt to save the girls.
Another officer, Josh Disinger from the Flora Police Department, was injured while pulling Yoder to safety. Yoder credits him with saving his life.
"Josh is my hero," Yoder said. "He made sure I got home to my family."
Yoder said he and Disinger arrived at the scene of the house fire at the same time. He said they, without hesitation, tried to enter the home three different times.
"We knew it was going to be hot and smoky, but you could only go in so far and have to come back out for air. We weren't going to stop."
While in the hospital, Yoder wrote a brief note to Disinger thanking him for saving his life. He said he didn't have any recollection of writing the note and knew about it only after his mother showed it to him on Facebook.
"I had no clue. I don't remember writing it," he said. "Supposedly I wrote a bunch of other notes to other people that I had no clue about. My mother saved them all."
Yoder didn't know about the girls' fate until later.
"It's still sits in the back of my mind. I still think about it every day. I'm talking to a lot of people who've told to me about how to push through that and just get through a normal day."
Yoder said he's slowly getting back to normal. His hands, which were burned during the rescue effort, serve as a constant reminder of what happened. He also described it as his "first major incident" since he's been on the job, adding that he'll always carry it with him.
His rapid recovery surprised his doctors.
"I made a lot faster recovery than I expected to. Surprised the doctors with how fast I healed. As soon as they told me I could go back to the road, I told (the sheriff) I was ready to go."
Yoder said going back on duty was a key step for him because he's not someone who enjoys "sitting around at home and not really doing anything."
Yoder has seen an outpouring of support from the law enforcement community. He said he's received get well cards from officers in California, Florida and Kentucky, among other states.