Dec. 15, 2021
CWU Alumnus, U.S. Army Soldier Helps 15 Korean Civilians Escape Apartment Fire
A Central Washington University alumnus has been lauded for his bravery after helping save the lives of 15 civilians from an apartment building fire in South Korea.
U.S. Army Maj. Gabriel Bowns (’05) and two others were honored last month by the Daegu emergency services department for their impromptu rescue of the Korean residents on the afternoon of November 13.
Bowns, along with Sgt. 1st Class Gisele Schilling and 13-year-old Azizi Wilkins, were the first to arrive on the scene of the structure fire near Camp Walker. An article posted on the U.S. Army’s website noted that the three relative strangers came together to help as many people as they could before emergency services arrived.
“The three had never met before, but were soon running into the building together and working to help as many people as possible while they still had time,” the report said. “Initially, Schilling went up the stairs toward the fire, while Bowns alerted residents on the ground floor and Wilkins called emergency services. No one in the building was aware it was on fire.”
Bowns, who heads the G9 interoperability section at 19th ESC, knew he had to do something.
“I was waving my arms, yelling ‘fire’ and a man looked at me, then turned back around,” said Bowns, who was on his way to a local barbershop when he saw the billows of black smoke coming from the four-story structure. “I had to lift him out of his chair, and move him out of the building.”
Bowns and Schilling proceeded further into the building to help whomever they could, but the situation became increasingly dangerous, the soldiers were forced to evacuate themselves as well. In the process, Bowns may have saved Schilling’s life, too.
“Schilling felt a yank on her Army uniform blouse — it was Bowns stopping her from proceeding into certain danger,” the article recounted. “The two retreated down the stairs to find city firefighters arriving on the scene in full protective gear, ready to enter the blaze.”
Everyone inside the building was eventually brought to safety, and some, including Schilling, were transported to a nearby hospital for treatment. Bowns accompanied Schilling to the hospital and stayed with her until her husband arrived.
Bowns, Schilling, and Wilkins — the son of Maj. Brandon Wilkins — were recognized for their bravery on November 24 at the Daegu police headquarters, each receiving a certificate and a plaque.
Media contact: David Leder, Department of Public Affairs, David.Leder@cwu.edu, 509-963-1518.