‘I’ll catch you’: Mother breaks her back saving daughter from house fire

LYNCHBURG, Va. — A Virginia woman is in the hospital with a broken back after catching her stepdaughter, who was forced to jump out of a window to escape a house fire.

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Crystal Dawson was with her husband and their three children at their Lynchburg home when the fire started early Friday morning, WSET reported. Dawson’s husband said they saw the flames when their 6-month-old woke up for a bottle.

“I couldn’t even make it not even three steps into my living room before I was hit in the face with flames,” Dawson told KTTV.

Dawson’s husband, Brian Dawson, tried to get up the stairs, but the flames pushed him back.

“I was scared. I was like crying,” Brianna Dawson, Crystal’s stepdaughter, told WSET. “I was like, ‘Dad, I can’t get out.’ And he was like, ‘You gotta come out.’”

Crystal, Brian and their infant made it out of the house, but Brianna and her 9-year-old brother were still trapped inside, KTTV reported.

“I’m standing at the front door of my house, screaming, ‘Guys, get to a window. Guys the house is on fire, get to a window,” Crystal told KTTV.

The only option for the children to get out of the house was to jump from their second-story window. Christian, the 9-year-old, jumped first, WSET reported.

“(Brianna’s) expressing to me, ‘Crystal, I’m scared, I don’t want to jump,’” Crystal told WSET. She told her stepdaughter, “You need to jump. I got you, I’ll catch you.”

Brianna did jump.

“I caught her with everything I had in my chest,” Crystal told KTTV.

Crystal said she then fell to the ground and heard a pop as the roof caved in on the house, the station reported. Crystal said catching Brianna shattered her T5 vertebrae, leaving her temporarily paralyzed and unable to walk, WTTV reported.

“No mom is gonna stand there and let their kids die because of a house fire, they’re gonna do everything they can and if that means that I died in place of her, I would have done it in a heartbeat,” Crystal told WSET.

The family started a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for their medical expenses.