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Background Information

Employment History


South Bend

District Sales Manager

Samsonite Corporation

IU Student



Indiana University

Web References

South Bend Tribune; southbendtribune.com

www.southbendtribune.com [cached]

While others have been calling South Bend firefighter Brent Van Bruaene a hero, he keeps asking himself questions.

It was just last week, after all, that Brent -- with help from St. Joseph County police officer Joel Taylor and former firefighter Blair Schrock -- pulled Eaton to safety from a fiery crash.
"We were down to seconds," Brent admits.It all started for Brent around noon Oct. 16 when he was heading home to Elkhart on the Toll Road after EMT training in South Bend.
"When I was on the bridge over Current Road, I happened to see two vehicles on the other side that had apparently been in a crash," he says.
He could see both drivers, and they looked alert.Even though he was off duty, he decided to turn around at an emergency vehicle lane just in case.
Eaton's truck had been hit by a sport utility vehicle while he was picking up trash, and his truck was against the bridge abutment with the SUV's engine compartment next to his cab.
"While I jogged up to see how Jim was and assess his injuries, a fire suddenly started in the other car's engine," Brent says.
So the first thing that Brent did was reach over from the passenger side and roll up Eaton's window to keep the flames from licking in.
"And then I tried to pull him out," Brent says.
"Then Officer Taylor got in the cab with me and we both pulled," Brent continues.
"I think things were starting to get a little panicky at that point," Brent admits.
Brent, 28, had graduated from Indiana University in 2000 and worked as a district sales manager for Samsonite for a few years before he decided to follow in his dad's footsteps.
Brent spent a year in Mishawaka, too, before joining the South Bend department earlier this year.
Brent is married to his high school sweetheart, the former Mandy Varga, who is expecting their first child.He went home after rescuing Eaton and started working on his house.
He admits he isn't real comfortable with his 15 minutes of fame.He thought he was done with that kind of attention a few years ago when stories were written about him working at Subway as an IU student and serving the now famous Jared of the TV commercials his evening meals.Brent helped Jared lose more than 200 pounds.
"I just didn't know how we could leave him," Brent says.
What if ... OK, enough of the questions.Suffice it to say that Brent and his buddies supplied the answers.

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