HOUSTON - HFD Captain Bill Dowling, one of the firefighters injured in the Southwest Inn motel fire back in May, was released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon, in time to spend Thanksgiving with his family.
Houston firefighters lined the driveway to Dowling's home late this afternoon and saluted him. It was their way of saying welcome home.
"It made me cry. It was overwhelming, just overwhelming," Jacki Dowling said.
Engine 68 left the Memorial Hermann Trauma Institute with Dowling and made its way on North Macgregor Way to Highway 288 to I-45 North.
Fire engines and fire crews from across the city lined his path from the Medical Center to his home in the Tomball area, saluting the captain.
Jacki Dowling said initially she planned on keeping today's homecoming small, for family only. The big celebration, she says, was her husband's idea. He wanted to do it for the firefighters.
"To see his HFD family, that truly is the best medicine," Dowling said.
At one point on the ride on the North Freeway, an HFD official told Local 2 that the ride was too bumpy for Dowling in the fire truck, so they transferred him into an ambulance for the remainder of the ride.
Dowling was among the 13 firefighters injured in the 5-alarm fire on May 31 at the Southwest Inn. Four firefighters died in the fire.
For months, the entire community has been rooting and praying for the man we've all come to know as iron bill.
Jacki Dowling says the encouragement and support has given her tremendous strength. She says she couldn't be more thankful.
"He's been very emotional at times but he has laughed so hard he would cry. He was so happy. The happiest I've seen him," Dowling said.
Dowling lost both his legs and suffered severe burns all over his body.
Reporter Andy Cerota will have coverage of this story this afternoon on Local 2 News.
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