A US Navy Sailor has retracted an account claiming he saved two children in a duplex fire- and he’s now under investigation.
The USS Gerald R. Ford crew member, Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Nathaniel Atkins, claims he was on liberty on June 24 when he passed an apartment building on fire.
“The only thing I saw was a house fire and there were probably 15, maybe 20 people standing outside,” Atkins initially claimed. “I stopped, rolled down the window and yelled ‘is everybody out of the house.’ And they’re like, no, there are kids inside.”
Atkins then said that he let his Navy training kick in and went to work.
“Initially I went up to try to and assess the situation, to determine what the easiest way in was,” said Atkins. “It was a four-apartment duplex and the main entrance that goes upstairs where the kids were, was on fire. I couldn’t get through it. I saw the two children in a bedroom window in the back half of the house on the second story and went to find a ladder.”
Atkins claimed he climbed into a window using the ladder and removed two children, but could not save an elderly woman inside the house.
“There was so much chaos in the very beginning, nobody was taking control. I just leapt into action and did what I needed to do. I don’t really know how to feel about it, it’s a lot of mixed emotions. I have a feeling of guilt, just because of the grandmother and that situation, but to be honest, I did everything I could. I think that I did a good job, I have a feeling that I’ve accomplished something,” he said.
According to the Maritime Executive, the incident was covered by the Navy Times, which hailed Atkins as a hero.
After reading the article and realizing that it was Portsmouth Fire Department Lieutenant William Hatfield that had made the rescue, the PFD called Atkins into their office for questioning.
In response, the US Navy published a retraction order, and noted an investigation was underway.
“Since originally posting this story, the Navy has learned that the initial facts as reported are in question. USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is conducting an investigation into Petty Officer Nathaniel Atkins’ role in a Portsmouth fire on June 24, and his subsequent statements given in a press interview and with ship representatives,” USS Ford’s public affairs office said.
Atkins’ fate is unknown.
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