They say no good deed goes unpunished, a lesson the upstate New York town of Penfield learned the hard way after an 8-year-old boy, who saved six relatives from a trailer-home fire, died while trying to save a seventh, his grandfather, who couldn’t move because he was disabled.
Tyler Doohan, of East Rochester, N.Y., didn’t have school Monday because of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. He talked his mother into allowing him to spend Sunday night with his grandfather, Louis Beach, 57, who lived in a trailer park in Penfield, a town of about 36,000 people near Rochester.
“He was his best friend,” Crystal Vrooman told TV station WHAM, describing the relationship between her father and her son.
Penfield Fire Chief Chris Ebmeyer said nine people were staying at the 14-foot-by-60-foot trailer when the fire started about 4:45 a.m. Monday. Tyler woke up when the blanket covering his sleeping 4-year-old cousin caught fire, Ebmeyer said.
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Tyler woke up six relatives — including the 4-year-old and a 6-year-old — Ebmeyer said, and they all made it outside. He then ran back to the room where his grandfather was sleeping. Beach used a wheelchair and crutches after having a leg amputated because of health problems, the fire chief said.
But it was too late.
“By that time, the fire had traveled to the back of the trailer,” Ebmeyer said. “Unfortunately, they both succumbed to heat and smoke.”
Firefighters found Tyler’s body a few feet from Beach’s, Ebmeyer said. The body of Tyler’s uncle, Steven Smith, 54, was found in another part of the trailer, which didn’t appear to have a working smoke detector, he said.
Ebmeyer said the fire’s cause was under investigation, but officials believe it was electrical in origin.
“It makes me really proud, it really does, but I just want him back,” Vrooman told WHAM, a CNN affiliate. The family is raising money for the funeral.
“I’m just so grateful that he went with people that he loved,” she said. “He didn’t go alone.”
Ebmeyer said that the fire’s toll could have been much worse if not for Tyler’s actions. All six survivors of the fire, including Tyler’s 65-year-old grandmother, suffered minor injuries, officials said. “He saved those other six people,” the chief said.
Tyler was a fourth-grader in the East Rochester Central School District, where officials called him a “hero.”
Some neighbors told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that Beach family members and officials of Morgan Management, which owns the park, had told them the trailer had been deemed unlivable at least once.
Louis Beach had to replace the roof and the windows of the trailer within the past year.
Neighbors also said Louis Beach had been told too many people were living on the property.
Darren Button, manager of the trailer park, did not return a call for comment.
Ebmeyer said there are no occupancy restrictions governing trailers, and few fire regulations regarding trailers if they are privately owned.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.