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Mother Died Trying to Save Paraplegic Son From Fire

<i> From Times Staff Writers</i>

The matriarch of a Salvadoran family who tried to carry her paraplegic son to safety was killed, and a relative died later of burns, after a Christmas tree exploded, sending 18 others fleeing the house.

Pilar Sanchez Flores, 54, rushed to rescue her 18-year-old paraplegic son Monday evening, but as she carried him in her arms, she stumbled in a smoky hallway near the door and died.

A relative, 41-year-old Mario Nunez, died Tuesday from smoke inhalation and burns to 95% of his body. The paraplegic son, Jose de la Cruz Nunez, remained hospitalized in critical condition, with second- and third-degree burns. A 14-year-old daughter was in serious condition.

Other family members lowered 10 small children to safety out a bedroom window, survivors said.

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Rueben Ventura was burned rescuing his paraplegic brother. But flames had reached the door when he tried to go back for his mother.

Survivors said the fire began when the tree burst into flames, and within seconds, they said, the blaze ignited the five-bedroom house.

Santa Ana Fire Department spokesman Karl Ellman said faulty wiring came into contact with a dry Christmas tree.


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