Woman seeks to return bravery medals to Winnipeg hero who saved children from burning building

A Winnipeg woman is working to reunite a Manitoba hero with the two medals he earned after saving five children and a teenager from a burning home in 1996.

Just over a week ago, Corrina Pakosh was helping a friend clean up when she came across the medals. She believes they were taken from their original owners at some point.

“They looked like they belonged to someone. They looked important and I checked. There’s a name on the bottom. So I put a post on Facebook hoping to find this person and contacting everyone on Facebook with that last name,” Pakosh told CBC News on Tuesday.

One of the medals says, “For service in the cause of humanity” on the front and has the name Leslie Warren Blanchette embossed on the rim. The other says ERII, referencing the late Queen Elizabeth II, as well as “Bravery.”

According to the website of the Governor General, Blanchette was bestowed with the two medals in 1999 for rescuing six children from a burning house in his neighbourhood three years prior.

A hand holds two medals: one silver that says Bravery and ERII and a bronze one.
Corrine Pakosh holds the silver and bronze medals Leslie Warren Blanchette was bestowed with in 1999 after he saved six children from a burning house in Winnipeg. (Rachel Bergen/CBC)

On June 10, 1996, Blanchette hopped to action as soon as he discovered his neighbour’s house was on fire. He rushed inside the front door and saw the kitchen was engulfed in flames. 

Hearing cries at the top of the staircase, Blanchette raced up to find a 13-year-old babysitter and two panicked toddlers.

He and the babysitter found two other children and brought them all out of the house. But a five-year-old child was still missing.

Corinne Pakosh holds up two medals that bear the name Leslie Warren Blanchette. Blanchette was given the medals of bravery in 1999 after he saved six children from a burning house in Winnipeg. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

“Blanchette quickly ran back inside calling to the child upstairs. Although the heat had intensified and the toxic black smoke made breathing nearly impossible, he was able to locate the little girl in a back bedroom and bring her to safety,” the website says.

Pakosh said that story brought a tear to her eye.

“He didn’t have to do that. He could have called 911 and stood there and waited. He really, truly earned these and the medals should never be taken,” she said.

CBC News has reached out to the Governor General’s office for more information, but didn’t immediately receive a response.

Pakosh doesn’t know what happened to Blanchette or if he still lives in Winnipeg, but she wants to ensure the medals are returned to their rightful owner.

“He earned them. He should have them. I don’t know why he doesn’t or why his family doesn’t.”

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