Stories of Odesa firefighters injured in rocket attack

Stories of Odesa firefighters injured in rocket attack

Despite their own injuries, they saved others

On the morning of March 15, Russian troops insidiously attacked the recreational area of Odesa with Iskander-M ballistic missiles. Ten rescuers from Odesa Detachment No. 6 responded to the call. When the rescuers were fighting the fire and helping the victims, the Russians struck the location for the second time. Rescuers Denys Kolesnikov and Vitaliy Alymov were killed, eight of their colleagues were wounded, four of them are still being treated. On that day, 21 people were killed and 73 wounded in Odesa as a result of Russian strikes. When asked whether it is advisable for rescuers to respond to calls during air alerts, they answer: "We can't do otherwise. We are talking about people's lives." Ukrinform correspondents talked to Odesa firefighters.


Oleh Kotelevskyi, head of Odesa Rescue Unit 6, has been making arrivals since the beginning of the full-scale war. The man notes that what he saw at the scene of the March 15 tragedy will be remembered for the rest of his life.

Kotelevskyi recalls that on that day, after an air raid alert, his unit was going down to the bomb shelter when the dispatcher was informed of a hit. According to preliminary information, a private house was on fire. Two units of the guard arrived at the scene, set up an operational headquarters and began to extinguish the fire. Several firefighters were helping civilians when a second explosion occurred.

Oleh Kotelevskyi
Oleh Kotelevskyi

- I was driving up to the place indicated by the dispatcher, 500 meters away from which I heard an explosion. What I saw was pure horror. I pulled myself together and started helping my rescuers. Two of them were lying on the roadway. I was the first to run to Denys Kolesnikov. I cut open his clothes, took off his bulletproof vest - there was a big wound on his chest. He was bleeding, so I covered the wound with reinforced tape. Next to Denys was Mykola Stadnik, with a bone sticking out of his leg and bleeding. My deputy was already helping him, he put a tourniquet on Mykola's leg. I was told that our driver Vitaliy Alymov was brought to the house next door. He was conscious and said he felt pain in the chest area. A civilian man was next to him, and together we took off Vitaliy's protective gear, cut his clothes and saw a wound in his chest. Vitaliy was bleeding and choking," said Kotelevskyi.

After handing over his wounded colleagues to the doctors, the squad leader began looking for other rescuers.

- The guys suffered concussions, burns and fractures. Two rescue vehicles were cut through, and we could not supply water to extinguish the fire. The area of the fire was 80 square meters, because there was a gas leak from a broken pipe. When the ninth fire department arrived to help us and we sent all our wounded to the hospital, we started extinguishing the fire. Then we received information about a possible third arrival, and the rescuers ran to the parking lot of a nearby high-rise building. We saw Denys Kolesnikov lying on the roadway, dead. We were shocked. It was an indescribable pain, because we are like a family. Everyone was crying," he said.


Rescuer Artem Avgustinovych says that at the time of the second hit, he and his partners were extinguishing the fire.

Artem Avgustinovych
Artem Avgustinovych

- We were thrown back by a shock wave. When I came to, my podcast was on fire. I tried to put it out and started asking for help, but quickly realized that my colleagues were in a similar situation. Some of them also had equipment on fire, and some were unconscious. I put out my face on my own and ran to the tanker truck and hid there. That's when I saw my colleague Oleksandr Dontsov, who was nearby at the time of the hit. He was in shock, had lost his hearing and could not hear me. I realized that our other guys also needed help. In particular, Dmytro had an open fracture of his left leg. Then Oleksandr, although he was wounded himself, helped me drag Dmytro to the nearest primitive shelter - we realized that if he came a third time, we would die. Eventually we handed Dmytro over to an ambulance. I was also in a state of shock, did not feel pain from the burns, and tried to help further. But the paramedics took me away," Artem Avgustinovych recalls.

Rescuer Serhiy Shaposhnyk recalls that after the second hit, he did not immediately realize what had happened and was disoriented. When he came to, he immediately rushed to help the wounded.

Serhiy Shaposhnyk
Serhiy Shaposhnyk

- I was near the speaker when the explosion occurred. My bulletproof vest saved me. When I came to, I saw a wounded woman five meters away. Together with a local resident, we dragged her into the corridor of a private house. Then we saw another wounded man, and we also took him to the building, realizing that in case of another explosion it was better to be behind the walls. I heard my friends screaming, saw the vandalized ambulances. I was looking for someone who could help the "heavy" ones when I felt my shoes were slippery - I was wounded in the leg and bleeding. The medics took care of the "heavy" first. Eventually, I was taken to the hospital by a Kherson volunteer in his own car," said Shaposhnyk.


Another injured rescuer is Oleksandr Dontsov. The man suffered concussion, damage to his auditory nerves, severe burns to his face and hands, and shrapnel wounds. Despite the severe pain, like other rescuers, immediately after the explosion, Oleksandr rushed to help his wounded colleagues.

Oleksandr Dontsov
Oleksandr Dontsov

- I remember when we saw a big flame and realized that it was pure hell. Suddenly, I heard a terrible hum, as if an airplane was landing, and I felt anxious, as if a disaster was about to happen. Two seconds later there was an explosion. We were in the very epicenter. People fell like pieces on a chessboard. I flew about six meters and hit a concrete fence. I felt a terrible pain, and my earpiece caught fire. I was afraid to open my eyes - I was afraid I had lost my sight. With my eyes closed, I could see a crimson glow - it was my face burning. Fortunately, my eyesight did not disappear. My hands were severely burned, and I was putting them out on the ground, which I sprinkled on my face to extinguish the fire. Gathering my strength, I got up and went to the tanker truck, to my colleagues. However, I did not hear them - at that moment I felt only pain, I was disoriented. All I realized was that I had to help our guys and pull them out of the flames. I remember that I could no longer carry my wounded comrade because of the burns on my hands, I was very afraid that I would not be able to hold the stretcher with him. When we brought my comrade to the ambulance, I just leaned back against a tree, slid down and lost consciousness," Oleksandr recalls.

The military moved the man to a shelter and told him it was his second birthday. The fragment tore through his body armor and stopped a few millimeters from his spine.

- I would like to thank our military and police who immediately picked me up, moved me to a shelter and provided first aid. They bandaged my wound and stopped the bleeding. I lost consciousness for the second time from the pain. Then I was taken to the hospital. I remember the gurney on which they were taking me to the ward, I was screaming and asking for an injection of painkillers," says Oleksandr Dontsov.

The man was operated on, and three shrapnel fragments were removed from his body. Currently, Oleksandr is undergoing outpatient treatment. His face is healing, but he will have hearing problems for the rest of his life: his right ear can hear only 50 percent due to damage to the auditory nerve. The man says that this is a "gift from the Russian world," because Russia has nothing but destruction and evil to give. He also suffered a severe concussion, the consequences of which may be felt in the future.

- It was very difficult. But, as they say, walls heal, so now it's a little easier physically. I lost two brothers, and this cannot be cured. The guard is a family. We come on shift, work side by side, know everything about each other. Appreciate every day. When I found out that Denys Kolesnikov and Vitalik Alymov were killed, I realized that life is just a moment," says Oleksandr.

He assures us that he will definitely return to service after rehabilitation. Oleksandr's family supports him and, as the rescuer says, has accepted his choice.


When asked whether rescuers will continue to respond to alarms after the events of March 15, everyone answers without hesitation: "Yes".

- We have been responding to calls as we have been and will continue to do so, because it is our duty to save people. Yes, we did not expect this. It's not the first time we've been called out during an air raid, even though we're not supposed to do so. But if there is a threat to civilians, we have no moral right not to go. That's what happened on Seredna Street when a residential building was hit. If the rescuers had waited for the call off, there would have been dozens of dead, people would have been trapped in their own apartments and suffocated by smoke. "When people call from under the rubble and shout that they are dying, we can't help but go," the rescuers say.

Hanna Bodrova, Odesa

Photo by Nina Lyashonok and from the Facebook page of the Main Directorate of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine in Odesa Oblast

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