They say no good deed goes unpunished, a lesson that the upstate New York town of Penfield learned again the hard way after an 8-year-old boy, who saved six relatives from a trailer-home fire, died while trying to save the seventh who couldn’t move because he was disabled.
Tyler J. Doohan, of East Rochester, N.Y., didn’t have school Monday because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. He talked his mother into allowing him to spend the night with his grandfather, Louis J. Beach, 57, who lives in a trailer in Penfield, a town of about 36,000 people near Rochester in Monroe County.
“He was his best friend,” Crystal Vrooman told the TV station WHAM, describing the relationship between her father and her son.
Besides his grandfather, who uses a wheelchair, and his uncle, a number of other relatives were inside the mobile home with Tyler.
About 4:45 a.m. Monday, a fire broke out, Penfield Fire Chief Chris Ebmeyer told reporters. The cause is still under investigation, but officials said they believe it was electrical in nature.
As the home rapidly burned, Tyler rushed around waking up his family. He was able to rouse six people and get them out of the trailer, including two children, 4 and 6 years old, Ebmeyer said.
Tyler then went back into the trailer to rescue two adults, his grandfather in the back bedroom, and uncle, Steven D. Smith, 54, in the front. 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.”
The adult was found on a bed and the child nearby.
There has been some question as to which relative was where. In some reports, Tyler was found with his uncle. But as far as his mother is concerned, the only truth that matters is that her son is gone.
“I'm just so grateful that he went with people that he loved,” she said. “He didn't go alone.”
Ebmeyer said that three people died in the fire but it could have been much worse if not for Tyler's actions. Those saved were treated and released from a hospital.
“He saved those other six people,” the chief said.
Tyler was a fourth-grader in the East Rochester Central School District, where officials Monday called him a “hero.”
“With great sadness, the East Rochester School District confirms one of the three victims of an early-morning fire in Penfield was a fourth-grade boy at our school,” interim Supt. Richard Stutzman Jr. said in a prepared statement.
“It is extremely important to remember that according to emergency personnel, (Tyler) was the person who discovered the fire and tried to wake the eight other people in the residence at the time. In bravely and selflessly giving his own life, he was able to save the lives of six others — and he is truly a hero.”