'Our hero': Mother thanks retired firefighter for saving daughter from burning car

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TELLER COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) - "I'm just so, so, so, so, so grateful."

A mother, for the first time, standing face to face with the man who saved her daughter's life.

"She's alive because Richard and my angel and my hero came along," said Shirley Westbrooks-Allen.

Westbrooks-Allen reached out to 11 News earlier in the month, hoping for our help.

She wanted to meet the man who pulled her daughter out of a burning car.

In late August, Richard Krochta was traveling from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek on a work assignment. It was supposed to be his day off.

"Actually, I took the wrong truck this morning, otherwise I'd be waiting here [at his Colorado Springs office]," he told 11 News at the time.

While making the trip he wasn't supposed to make in the truck he wasn't supposed to be in, he noticed a car on fire about 15 feet off the road. He rushed to the vehicle with a fire extinguisher and then heard cries for help.

It was Westbrooks-Allen's 59-year-old daughter Denise and her friend, both trapped as flames devoured the vehicle. Authorities said later that the smoke was so thick, Krochta couldn't see Denise and initially thought the driver was the only person in the car. After the driver told him Denise was still inside, Krochta returned to the vehicle and found her just before flames fully engulfed the car.

The Northeast Teller County Fire Department said the pair would have been killed in the fire if Krochta hadn't found them when he did.

After getting Westbrooks-Allen's call, 11 News contacted Krochta, who said he'd be honored to meet with the family.

Thursday, Westbrooks-Allen told Krochta in person how thankful she was.

"I was just so grateful. The Lord was with him to be able to pull them out of that burning vehicle -- on the side of a mountain! -- and He sent him to do that for Denise and for Scotty. And that is just overwhelming.

"We just had to get our hero to come and say hello and give him a hug and a kiss," she said.

A retired firefighter, Krochta said he's never been personally thanked for saving anyone and was emotional during their meeting.

"I can still picture [Denise's] face when I drug her out of the car," he said.

Westbrooks-Allen says the road to recovery will be a long one for her daughter, who suffered several broken bones including two broken legs.

But she's alive.

"She's healing," Westbrooks-Allen said, "and she's alive because of you."