Burlington firefighter recognized for saving woman on flight

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BURLINGTON, N.C. -- It was January 21 when Shannon Watkins was on a flight back home after a family vacation in the Dominican Republic.

But a few moments after the plane took off, a woman at the back of the plane started slipping in and out of consciousness.

A stewardess on board called out for help.

Watkins -- a Burlington firefighter -- rushed in.

The woman, who is diabetic, was slouched over, pale and half-conscious.

“She was barely able to talk,” he said. “She was kind of mumbling."

Watkins checked her vitals and asked for an oxygen cylinder. He quickly got the woman's medical history from her husband.

After a few minutes, the woman regained consciousness and Watkins returned to his seat.

When he got back home, his stepfather wrote an email to the fire chief, explaining what happened.

Burlington Fire Chief Jay Smith says the act of bravery is worthy of praise.

"We're very proud of him taking that action,” Smith said. “It's something he didn't have to do."

Watkins was recognized at Tuesday’s city council meeting for jumping into action.

It’s the type of action Chief Smith says that becomes second nature to most first responders.

"They're trained to respond, so that's what they do on a daily basis so they don't know any other way to act," he said.

Despite being called a “hero” by many, Watkins says he was just doing the right thing.

"I just happened to be at the right place at the right time," he said.

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