Purdue president honors 2 who responded to fire


A Purdue University student and a campus employee who warned residents about a pre-dawn apartment fire that eventually killed one person have been honored for their potentially life-saving actions.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels said that sophomore Gregory Cohen and school employee Kevin Thedans demonstrated courage and helped protect the lives of residents at the West Lafayette apartment gutted by the fire.

"Each spontaneously saw trouble, responded to it, put themselves at risk and by all accounts are responsible for the safety of a number of other people," Daniels said.

Daniels presented the men, both of whom have military training, with the One Brick Higher Award for their actions during the April 24 fire, the Journal & Courier reported.

That fire killed 22-year-old Cody Ryan Day of Connersville, who was visiting friends at Purdue.

A Purdue student injured during an attempt to reach Day Chase Woodall, 22 remains hospitalized, said Audrey Myers and Brayton Tressler, two Purdue students who attended Thursday's presentation. Fire officials continue to investigate what may have sparked that fire.

Cohen, a mechanical engineering major and ROTC cadet, said he awoke early on April 24 for a physical fitness test and noticed fire on a neighbor's balcony when he left his apartment complex.

He said he ran to wake the six people inside, starting with the two men he found asleep on the first floor.

"I woke one of them up. He became alert right away and ran upstairs to wake up the four others up there," Cohen said.

Thedans, an Army veteran employed by the university for 28 years, said he was headed to work at his usual time when he noticed flames about 5 a.m.

He left his car in the middle of the road with its emergency flashers on and ran up to the first set of apartments, where he found Cohen keeping people calm, and then called 911.

Thedans then instructed those present to make sure everyone in nearby apartments was awake and aware of the fire.

"People just started fanning out from there, knocking on the other doors until somebody would answer," he said.

Thedans said the scene was chaotic and confusing with residents screaming. He said he feels honored to be associated with Cohen, who he said kept his cool.