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Mom's final act before dying in house fire was saving her baby's life

New mom Shelby Carter couldn't escape a fast-moving house fire, but she was able to save her newborn by tossing the child out a window.
/ Source: TODAY

One of the last actions Shelby Carter took before losing her life in a house fire was nothing short of heroic. Before succumbing to smoke inhalation from the fast moving fire, the new mom jumped into action by strapping her 12-day-old daughter Keana Davis into a car seat and throwing her out the window. This quick-thinking action saved the newborn's life.

Carter, a resident of Wyoming, Illinois, who had just celebrated her 21st birthday the day before the fire, resided in the house with her mother, Kathy Hardy, her daughter, and her fiancé, DeShawn Davis. When the fire began spreading through the structure, Carter had the presence of mind to call the fire department and then to break a second-story window, tossing her small child in the car seat onto a pile of debris.

It was a life or death moment, and Carter succeeded in saving baby Keana, who was taken to a nearby hospital and then released to relatives. Hardy and Davis were not in the house at the time of the fire.

“Shelby's selfless heroic actions prove that there is no end to a mother's love for a child,” said Jacob Plumer- Captain Wyoming-Speer Fire Department. “This tragic event reminds us just how short life can be.”

Carter, who graduated from high school in 2014, had worked as a nail technician and was studying to become a pharmacy technician. Her body was found on the second floor of the home where she had apparently died of smoke inhalation. The fire department is not sure why Shelby herself did not follow the child out the window.

Shelby Carter lost her life in a house fire, but she saved her baby daughter before she died.Facebook/ Shelby Carter

Anna Steelman, Shelby’s childhood friend and former basketball teammate, described her as a caring and naturally maternal person. She was shocked by the news of the house fire.

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“It was my day off and as I was on my way back to town after running errands. I could see smoke going up over Wyoming,” said told TODAY. “We live in a rural community, so seeing smoke, I didn't even consider it to be a house fire. Fires around here are usually created for a purpose — burning leaves, ditches, burn pile or bonfires. I remember thinking, ‘That’s a lot of smoke,’ but never did I think that it would be a house fire. That's not something we see around here, especially one as tragic as this.”

Steelman said she was shocked to learn that it was her friend’s house, but not surprised to learn that Shelby had acted quickly to save her child.

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“Her quick instinct to strap Keana in her car seat and to get her outside does not surprise me,” said Steelman. “She was a very task-oriented person growing up. She knew she had to save the baby, she came up with the most logical way to do so, and she followed through with her plan. It's that simple. That's the Shelby I know.”

Shelby Carter and her fiance DeShawn Davis, who is baby Keana's father.Facebook/ Shelby Carter

Shelby’s uncle, Jesse Hardy, remembers a strong young woman who was mature beyond her years.

“I was actually living with my sister when Shelby was born so she has been a part of my life for a very long time,” said Hardy. “I know a lot of people are calling her a hero, but to those of us who knew her, she was just being Shelby. There are people in this world who are caretakers. That’s who she was.”

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Hardy says that DeShawn Davis, Shelby’s fiancé and Keana’s father, is doing O.K. considering the circumstances.

“He’s become a single father. He doesn't like to have her out of his sight for too long. He’s a very caring, loving dad, who now pretty much thinks about Keana before making any decisions.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family and baby Keana.