A frantic mother held her baby out the second-floor window of her West Ashley apartment Tuesday afternoon, yelling for help as a fire smoldered in her living room below.
Kori Layton holds her baby, Hayden, after a fire at her apartment on Ashley Hall Road on Tuesday. Layton dropped Hayden from a second-floor window into the arms of neighbor Ashley Mims
Kori Layton, 20, said it seemed like an eternity before her next-door neighbor came to the rescue. Prior to the fire, the two women had shared little more than an occasional, friendly wave to each other.
Layton, a waitress at Ruby Tuesday in Summerville, was taking a nap with 18-month-old Hayden about 2 p.m. when her father called and they talked. After she hung up, she heard noises coming from downstairs and she opened the bedroom door to see who was in the apartment.
That's when she saw the smoke and realized what was happening. She kicked out the screen of the bedroom window and held the baby outside so he could breathe clean air. The smoke was rapidly making its way into the room.
Ashley Mims, 19, was reading a book next door when she heard someone yelling and peeked out to see who was disturbing her quiet time. She described the nightmarish sight — the frightened mother and child at the window, smoke billowing out over their heads. She ran outside to help.
There was no time for pleasantries. "She told me I had to calm down," Layton said. "She was panicked," Mims said. "She kept saying, 'I don't care about me. Just get my baby.' "
Layton said the next moments were blurred, as though she were in a dream. She grabbed Hayden's arms, lowered him as far as she could and dropped him into Mims' waiting arms. Then Layton dangled herself out the window and dropped.
Ashley Mims caught Kori Layton's baby after dropping the child from a second-floor window during a fire at her apartment.
"She would have fell backwards and hit her head if I wasn't there," Mims said an hour later, her hands still visibly shaking.
Firefighters quickly doused the fire, which started at the pump motor of a large fish tank in the living room. The tank and surrounding area were heavily charred, but nothing else in the Ashley Grove apartment appeared burned. There was heavy smoke damage, however, and the apartment is not habitable.
Layton bore the marks of the narrow escape; long, red scrapes on her forearms. She said she is grateful that her father had called and awakened her. Two smoke detectors in the apartment never made a sound, she said. Layton said she thought perhaps the batteries had died.
In 2005, a pair of siblings died in a fire at the same apartment complex. Firefighters found Unique Smith, 8, and Darrell Smith Jr., 5, hiding under clothing in an upstairs closet. The complex at that time was called Indigo Creek.