By Ryan Berry
GREENVILLE — On Tuesday, Greenville Mayor Steve Willman commended Patrol Officer Trevor Robbins for saving the life of Ted Unger. However, Unger is disputing the facts presented by the city and the police department and said he was not on fire and did not try to get back into the building.
Unger recalled that December night vividly when his warehouse on Central Avenue lit up the city sky. He said he was grinding down a piece of metal on a trailer that he was going to weld and then primer and paint. The garage door facing the Montessori School was open at the time. He believes one of the sparks from the grinder landed on some nearby cardboard. By the time he noticed the flames and retrieved an older fire extinguisher, the flames were racing up the walls.
A friend, Les Crowell arrived at about the same time Unger discovered the fire. Unger said he immediately walked out of the building and ordered Crowell to call 9-1-1. Crowell agreed with Unger’s recollection of the events, but also noted that before first responders arrived, Unger had walked through the building to the other side that was not on fire. However, after he emerged from that side of the building, he did not attempt to go back in.
When he did come out of the building, Unger was met by a patrol officer who looked down and pointed toward Unger’s shoe. Unger recalls looking down and noticing that his shoestring was smoldering. Unger said he bent down and brushed off the shoestring. He was adamant that it was not on fire but was smoldering. Crowell confirmed that Unger was not on fire.
Once first responders began arriving Crowell said it took some convincing, but Unger eventually relented to having the Greenville Rescue check him out to make sure he was okay. Unger said he walked down the block past a few houses to where the rescue unit was located. After he was cleared, he went back toward the fire and stood across the street.
“There was no way I was going back in there,” said Unger. He explained the building had several propane tanks as well as welding tanks. He remembers asking the fire department why they weren’t putting water on the fire at the time and explained there were propane tanks in the building. Unger was baffled at why the fire or police departments would think he would go back into the building. “I think they thought I was going to go into a building with propane tanks,” he said.
“Nobody saved my life,” said Unger. “I walked out of the building on my own two feet, and I reached down, with my own hand, and brushed off my shoestring. Nobody deserves a medal or anything. Nobody saved our [Unger and Crowell] lives,” he concluded.
The Daily Advocate reached out to Chief Eric Roberts and Mayor Willman for their reaction to Unger’s claims. Chief Roberts said, “Unger was indeed on fire and tried to get in.” Mayor Willman responded, “I’m sure Mr. Unger was excited seeing his property on fire certainly put him in a state of shock. I have no doubt his memory of the situation is not clear. When Officer Robbins came onto [the] scene he reported Mr. Unger’s clothes were on fire. He (Robbins) patted the flames out. This was in a memo sent from the police chief sent to Ryan [Delk] and myself from [a] report to the chief by Officer Marion.
To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].