Katrina Obray 'in awe' of Rosemount fire, police departments
A Rosemount woman was overcome with gratitude after she met with the police officers who likely saved her life.
Rosemount officers Alex Eckstein and Brad Roschen were on the scene as they held Katrina Obray back from her burning apartment building Aug. 12 at 14560 Shannon Parkway.
They found Obray covered in soot and third-degree burns. Her beloved pets were still inside, and she was panicking.
The pain of potentially losing her dogs and cat made her numb, and her memory is hazy, but she got out alive.
Unfortunately she can’t say the same about her pets.
Obray has spent the past few weeks putting together the pieces of her life, and she wanted to thank the officers, so she brought cheesecake to the department Sept. 27.
“Is that good enough to thank someone who saved their life? I don’t know,” Obray said. “Rosemount has a an exceptional police force. They’re efficient, compassionate and understanding. It was really good for me to speak with them for my own emotional healing. ... I’m still in awe.”
The officers filled in a few pieces from that late summer afternoon.
Obray was outside her apartment gardening when she opened to door to a raging fire in the entryway of her apartment.
Her two dogs Midna and Nayru, and her cat Impa were somewhere inside. To her, they were members of her family. She was going to do everything in her power to save them.
“They didn’t come when I called for them, which was definitely out of the ordinary for them,” Obray said. “I started looking everywhere.”
Experiencing quite a bit of smoke inhalation, Obray started feeling tired and was struggling to see.
She remembers thinking the fire was louder than expected. The fire alarm was also going off, but the roar of the flames was deafening.
As she was crawling around inside, she recalls feeling like she was about to fall asleep. She didn’t know if she was in the bathroom, art room or hallway closet.
“I realized something was wrong with my hands,” Obray said. “Then I heard my name so I went towards the door.”
She learned it was two neighbors that called out to her. Two women she’s still hoping to thank.
The next thing she remembers is bawling and fighting with the officer, pleading to go back inside.
“I remember putting up quite a bit of a fight, but they saved my life,” Obray said. “I was in a hysterically state of mind. I was covered in blood. My teeth were black with soot.”
Eckstein and Roschen were first on the scene where the saw a lot of smoke and heard a woman screaming.
They found Obray outside sitting by the door.
“It’s pretty crazy what the body can do with adrenaline,” Eckstein said. “We had to render some medical aid, but there wasn’t much we could do. Her injuries were pretty significant. She got herself out. The biggest thing we did was keep her from going back in there. We all know people love their animals and they’re like family. It’s pretty helpless. It’s a natural reaction.”
They also had to get Obray’s upstairs neighbor David Reuter to safety. He couldn’t get out of his apartment due to the flames.
Eckstein said they used a ladder from the fire truck to get him to safety through a window.
Obray was placed on a gurney and transported to Regions Hospital in St. Paul.
“I kept repeating to myself ‘(my pets are) fine, they’ll be OK,’ and then I fell asleep,” Obray said.
Eckstein said the Rosemount Fire Department did find her beloved pets.
“They got (her pets) outside and attempted life saving measures for a significant amount of time,” Eckstein said. “Our department is one of the best. They gave them CPR and oxygen for a while, but unfortunately they were unable to save them.”
When Obray found out that detail, she was overcome.
“They treated my pets like any human,” Obray said. “They’re all pet owners. They understand. That means the world to me that they worked on them like that.”
Eckstein said it was one of the tougher situations he’s been a part of as a police officer.
“It’s never easy to see somebody that injured,” Eckstein said. “There’s a lot to think about. On our end, we felt helpless too. Did I want to go in there? Absolutely. But if I went in there I wouldn’t be here.”
Obray had second- and third-degree burns on her hands, arms and face. She received skin grafts and spent nearly three weeks in the hospital.
Her recovery is far from over.
She was supposed to get married to her fiancé Gabriel Johnson Oct. 19.
The fire destroyed much of those plans. They postponed their wedding until 2020 to allow time to heal both mentally and physically.
Doctors had to cut off her engagement ring and family ring, and they were lost in the madness, she said.
Her wedding dress received significant amount of smoke damage, but it may be salvageable. Many of the other decorations went up in the flames.
One thing she didn’t lose was her hair.
“My mom told me at one point they talked about shaving my hair, but apparently my eyes opened up wide,” Obray said. “It takes a long time to grow three feet of red hair.”
She works as a dog groomer, but that will be hard to until her hands get stronger. She still has regular visits to the physical therapist and doctors.
There will be some physical scars and some emotional ones, too.
“There’s been a lot of nightmares,” Obray said. “The emotional effects of losing three family members, it’s going to take a while. I’m still in shock.”
The source of the fire?
“I remember looking at a candle near a fake plant thinking ‘is that too close?,’ ” Obray said. “I didn’t think it was too close. But maybe a gust of wind or a pet knocked it. I don’t know.”
Thanking the officers and hearing more details did provide some closure.
She’s also hopeful for a meeting with members of the Rosemount Fire Department who were there.
She has a few more questions, but she doesn’t know if she wants the answers to all of them.
“Do I want to know where they found my dogs? I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe I don’t want to find out that I was close.”
She said she heard members of the fire department spent more than 20 minutes trying to resuscitate her puppies and broke down when it was clear they weren’t going to make it.
“I need to thank them for that,” Obray said. “Hopefully they like cheesecake.”