Demetrius Johnson, 24, woke up after he smelled smoke from their home. He then carried his 8-year-old daughter and 15-month-old son out of the burning building. He also made sure his fiancee, Tempest, was safe.
However, when Johnson realized his 3-year-old son was still in the house, he ran back into the flames, the New York Daily News reported. He found the boy and stuck him in a closet for protection before he collapsed inside the burning house. Firefighters rescued the hidden child and then found Johnson’s body nearby.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) February 22, 2016
“My brother died a hero, that’s all there was to it,” William Johnson Jr., his brother, told the Buffalo News.
“He was an angel. He pulled his family out of there, but he couldn’t save himself.”
His family said he was the first to notice the fire early on Friday. He then woke up his fiancee before rescuing his children. His daughter was badly burned in the fire, but the others were unscathed.
“Tempest told Demetrius, ‘Don’t go back in there, it’s too bad,'” William Johnson added.
“My brother said, ‘I’m not going to let my son die.'”
— The Buffalo News (@TheBuffaloNews) February 22, 2016
The fire also killed a 49-year-old man who lived upstairs in the building, but he was not identified.
A memorial was held for Johnson over the weekend.
“My son today, if he was here, he would say mom what are you crying for?” said Lorez Collier, Johnson’s mom, according to WIVB-TV.
“I hear it in my head every day… ‘Mom I’m at peace, I’m free. Mom, I’m free.'”
— Dave McKinley (@DaveMcKinley2) February 19, 2016
Officials are still trying to figure out what sparked the fire.
Thomas, in a television interview, cried as she held up her hand and the engagement ring he had given her.
“I never got the chance to marry him,” she said.