by Mike Hall, Feb 22, 2010

Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) member Robin De Haven is being hailed as hero for his role in rescuing five people from the blazing Austin, Texas, building where a man with a vendetta against the Internal Revenue Service crashed his fuel-laden plane Thursday.

De Haven was on his way to work when he saw the single-engine plane, which witnesses say was at full throttle, heading toward the building. The IUPAT Local 1778 member told Fox News that when he looked again and saw black smoke pouring from the second story:

I immediately drove my truck over there, got the ladder off, went up to the side of the building and I saw people up on the second floor with their heads out the window for air because the room was filled with smoke.

The 26-year-old Iraq war veteran positioned the 17-foot ladder to reach as far as it could to the second floor. But when the people in the building were unable to secure the ladder so they could safely descend, De Haven scrambled up to them.

I climbed inside the broken-out window into the building with them. My ladder slipped a little bit actually.


With the help of one of the men inside, he then broke another window near a ledge, securing the ladder there so he could get five people out safely.

I held onto their waists and their backs so they wouldn’t fall if they slipped….I don’t feel like a hero. I was just trying to help.

But IUPAT President James Williams sees it a bit differently:

His actions were nothing short of heroic and we’re proud to have him in our ranks. Robin’s courage and character are a shining inspiration in these hard times. I hope his actions remind us all of what is most dear in our lives, and how important it is to take care of each other.  Robin De Haven is a prime example of what a good union member is made of.

Williams says De Haven is a graduate of the Helmets to Hardhats program that helps match vets and soon-to-be vets with apprenticeship and training programs offered by the 15 unions in the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD).

Veterans can use their G.I. Bill education benefits as they complete the certified apprentice programs. Helmets to Hardhats has helped more than 5,000 military vets find new careers as electricians, plumbers, roofers and in other skilled trades.