Why Did Mystery Heroes Save An Elderly Man From A Fire And Flee?
It was just after midnight in late March, 2018, when two students happened upon a perilous and frightening scene. An apartment building in Camden, New Jersey was completely on fire, the flames reaching for the sky. Worst of all, nobody appeared to be doing anything to help. Not a single soul was around and no firefighters were on the scene. A group of mystery heroes stepped in and what happened next left firefighters and the local residents of the city totally in awe and baffled. Read on to find out why the heroic people decided to do such a good deed yet run away from the scene. You’ll definitely feel inspired after reading this story.
1. The Emergency Call
A local resident of Camden, New Jersey frantically called 911 just after midnight in late March, 2018 to report a fire that had broken out at a three-story brownstone building at 206 Cooper Street.
The apartment building was actually divided into a duplex with an elderly couple living on the one side and a group of students on the other, but no one seemed to be rushing out initially, or so the onlookers thought.
2. Camden City Fire to the Rescue
Within just four minutes of receiving the emergency call from the local resident, the Camden City fire department dispatched its personnel and arrived on the scene ready to assess the situation and tackle the hazardous fire.
The fire was spreading viciously across the third floor by the time they pulled up to the front of the building. All they could see was a large crowd of people and lots of commotion, but they weren’t prepared for what they would soon discover.
3. A Simple Procedure
Firefighters are trained to swiftly deal with emergencies while remaining calm. After all, with all the panic that ensues during a fire, the best thing they can do is just get to work straight away to save as many lives as possible.
They came to put out the fire and do everything in their power to ensure that every single soul was evacuated from the building and brought to safety, especially when they heard people might be trapped inside. However, something was very odd about this fire.
4. Scanning the Building
Using one of their thermal-imaging cameras, the firefighters scanned the building to see if anyone was trapped in the apartment. That’s when some of the crew noticed what looked like a group of people bringing an elderly man out of the building.
The fire crew couldn’t be sure if this man was from the building or not at that point, so they continued scanning the building, and unfortunately, they were about to discover some sad news a few minutes later.
5. Putting Out the Fire
As the firefighters scanned the building and extinguished the blazing flames that had already engulfed the entire third floor of the duplex, they carefully looked to see if there were any people trapped in the apartment.
About half an hour after the fire crew arrived, the firefighters had the fire under control and examined the third floor again to see if there was anyone still in the building. Sadly, they were about to discover a sad scene.
6. Some Unfortunate Events
The firefighters were devastated to discover that they hadn’t made it in time to save a 63-year-old man from the fire. He was trapped inside one of the bedrooms of the apartment and couldn’t escape once the fire spread across the building.
This man, John Parker, was actually the son of the couple who resided in the apartment. They would come to learn that there was so much more to the story than what appeared to the eye.
7. Albert Parker
After the fire was completely extinguished and the crew were sure no one was left in the building, the fire squad crew found another elderly man, 90-years-old to be exact, already in the care of the paramedics on the scene.
He appeared to be relatively stable, but he was taken to Cooper University Hospital to be thoroughly examined and attended to. Turns out this man was Albert Parker, the father of the man trapped in the building, which left the firefighters even more befuddled.
8. An Attempt to Put the Pieces Together
The fire crew finally understood that a group of people were there before they arrived. It was clear that they had saved the life of Albert but couldn’t get to John on time. They also learned that Albert’s wife was not home that night.
They started asking around to find out the identities of the mysterious people who risked their lives to save the old man from the burning building, but to no avail. Before the firemen could get their names or information, or even talk to them, they had left the scene.
9. A Public Statement
The next day Chief Michael Harper of the Camden Fire department and Camden mayor Frank Moran addressed the press outside the building. They came to express their condolences and to confirm that they believe the fire started accidentally and didn’t seem suspicious.
Chief Harper confirmed that two Rutgers University students were evacuated from the attached residence of the building that night and that they could return to the building the next day. However, the authorities had something more important to say about the situation.
10. Good Samaritans
Chief Harper and Mayor Moran also wanted to commend the mystery heroes for their bravery and selfless acts, and once news spread of the unknown good Samaritans who risked their own lives to save the elderly man, people came forward with suggestions of who they could be.
Chief Harper was pleased with the efforts and thanked the mystery heroes for their selfless deeds and for not thinking of themselves saying, “That was remarkable. But it’s still a dangerous operation for anybody to do.” So, who were these heroes and why did they flee the scene?
11. A Possible Lead
Some people suggested the two young men that saved the 90-year-old man from the burning building were students from Rutgers University, but they couldn’t be sure about it as no one had come forward with names.
The vice chancellor of students affairs, Mary Beth Daisy, commented on the possibility saying, “[Rutgers students] are completely engaged in our community; we have a huge civic engagement effort. They feel a part of the community and so they feel responsibility to the community as well.”
12. A Public Effort
The entire city was abuzz trying to figure out the identities of these mystery heroes. Mary Beth Daisy also launched an initiative for the university to reach out to the student body on social media and via email to gather more information.
No one really knew why the brave individuals didn’t want to come forward about their good deed. The citizens of Camden believed their efforts should be celebrated and praised publicly, and Albert Parker wanted to thank his saviors in person.
13. An Innocent Conversation
A few days later, Corey Zytko, a student from the university was watching the news with his mother when she turned to him and asked, “Did they find the good Samaritans?” She was eager to know and wasn’t sure if her son knew or not.
Zytko replied “Ma, that was me!” She could hardly believe her ears when he told her the story about how he and Matteo Resanovic, his friend and fellow student, braved the flames to save Albert Parker. So this was the moment of truth. Were these brave men going to come forward?
14. The Mystery Heroes
The group of mystery heroes who saved the elderly man from the fire were indeed students at Rutgers University-Camden, but they were very reluctant to come forward as they didn’t want any recognition for what happened that night.
Eventually Zytko, Resanovic, and Jonathan E. Perez-Gayton did come forward as the students who saved the elderly man, and boy, did they have quite the story to tell about how it all went down that night and what exactly happened to the man’s son.
15. An Ordinary Evening
The students said the night started as just a typical Friday evening. A group of about six of them gathered at a friend’s place to play Nintendo Mario Kart and other games. It was something they did often when they weren’t studying or at school.
They enjoyed a few rounds of drinks and played video games for most of the evening and until the late hours of the night. They didn’t have classes the next day, so without a care in the world, they enjoyed staying up late to hang out with friends.
16. Calling It a Night
Eventually Tammy Meneses and Vanessa Solis-Palma, two of the female students at the gathering, grew tired and decided to call it a night. They didn’t want to play another round of video games so decided to step out and head home.
They said their goodbyes to their friends and thanked them for a lovely evening together. They knew they’d meet up soon again, so they weren’t too bothered to go home. Then just as they thought the night was over, disaster struck.
Meneses and Solis-Palma stepped out onto Market Street when they smelled something strange against the crisp smell of the night air. It seemed like it was coming from the road parallel to theirs, but they didn’t know what to make of it at first.
Then they looked at one another with that look of confirmation and shock about the fact that they were smelling smoke, and it was growing stronger the closer they got to Cooper Street. Well, turns out they left their friends’ place just in time!
18. It’s a Fire
When the girls turned onto Cooper Street they saw a fire bursting out of the windows of the third floor of the brownstone duplex building. Meneses didn’t hesitate and immediately called her friends and ran to tell to tell them what was going on just a block away.
“What happened next went from zero to 100 really quick,” Meneses recalled. All six students sprinted to the burning building and were shocked to see how quickly the fire was spreading across the third floor of the apartment, but there was something even more alarming that they noticed.
19. No Sirens
The students grew very concerned and agitated when they noticed no smoke alarms going off and no sign of any sirens approaching the scene. What’s more, no one was running out of the building and surely at that time of night, there could be people sleeping.
When they reached the sidewalk outside the building, no one was standing there either, so that’s when they knew they had to take matters into their own hands. They knew they had to think and act fast before things got even worse!
20. Call 911
Solis-Palma called 911 immediately while Zytko ran to alert a nearby campus security officer, since their Rutgers University campus was just up the road from the building. The smoke was mostly coming from he third floor as flames were jutting into the sky.
In the meantime, the other students knew they had to do something before emergency services arrived because time was running out. They were sure there were people inside and they had to think of a way to find out.
21. Bang, Bang!
Resanovic started banging on the fence outside the apartment to get the attention of someone in the building because they couldn’t open the doors or windows. The rest of the students joined him and started screaming in the hopes of alerting anyone that could be in danger.
When that didn’t work they started throwing rocks at the windows, as that was sure to alert anyone about the perilous situation. Perez-Gayton knew that students lived in one half of the duplex and that an elderly couple resided on the side where the fire broke out, so he started freaking out and told his friends.
22. No Other Choice
Resanovic, Perez-Gayton, and Zytko looked at each other and knew they had no other choice but to run inside the building. Once they braved the blaze and ran in they called out for the elderly man and his wife they’d seen around the neighborhood.
“I wasn’t really thinking. I just broke the front door glass,” Matteo Resanovic said. He injured his hand by shattering the panel with his fist after the first attempt with his elbow didn’t work, but his adrenaline was running and his heart was pounding, so he didn’t even feel the pain. Resanovic even downplayed the extent of the injuries he incurred during the rescue, saying, “It’s nothing compared to what the old man lost. I just regret not being able to get the guy’s son.”
23. Fire 101
The students were acting on impulse and their reflex actions made them run inside the burning building. Zytko described the moment saying, “It was a case of Fire 101. You’re taught as a kid to get everyone out of the building, knock on all the doors. I was just going with it.”
“Fire! Fire!” they screamed while racing inside the building up the staircase towards the blaze. They risked breathing in the smoke and getting caught in the fire, but nothing was going to stop them once they got inside the building.
24. Signs of Life
The students managed to wake up the elderly man Albert Parker on the second floor and carried him down the stairs to safety. He was in total shock and initially just stared up at his home ablaze with flames. He was freezing and shivering in his boxer shorts and T-shirt, so Resanovic ran back in to get him slippers and a coat to keep him warm.
Once Resanovic returned with several coats and Albert was able to fathom what was actually going on, he turned to the students and asked, “Where’s my son?” Resanovic didn’t hesitate and ran back in to look for Albert Parker’s son.
25. The Last Attempt
When Albert told the students about his son, Resanovic ran straight for the third floor. “I went in one more time after he asked me to look for his son. I went to the third floor and saw the room was just engulfed,” he recalled during his interview.
Resanovic yelled a few times, but there was no response and explained that he thought it was best not to open the door because of the fire. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get to his son without endangering his own life.
26. A True Hero
Resanovic really wanted to save Albert’s son John, but without any firefighting gear, there was no way he could survive the flames himself. It was a very difficult moment for Resanovic, but he had to run out of the building.
A few moments later the firefighters and emergency services arrived on the scene to fight the fire. They ran upstairs to extinguish the fire and find the man’s son, but they had no time to talk to the students before they left.
27. The Final Puzzle Piece
Unfortunately, the firefighters couldn’t make it in time to save John Parker as he was trapped in one of the back bedrooms on the third floor. Albert Parker’s wife wasn’t home that night and was definitely difficult to break the news to her.
Seeing that no one knew the names of the original rescuers after the firefighters put out the fire, the authorities were’t aware of how everything unfolded. They had no idea that the students did attempt to save John Parker.
28. Camden’s Very Own Superheroes
When the students finally came forward and were interviewed, they didn’t want to be called heroes. They were more concerned about Albert and how he felt. They were also devastated that they couldn’t get to John in time.
They said they were glad to help the community and make a difference in the world. Perez-Gayton told reporters: “I like our community, our neighborhood. Just trying to keep it safe and do the right thing.” That didn’t mean that they weren’t traumatized from the events.
29. Feelings of Guilt
Resanovic was also happy he was able to make a difference, but he went on to say, “I saw that the room that was on fire was just engulfed. Flames were popping underneath the door. I made a decision not to open it up because I didn’t want the fire to spread even faster. I’m sorry for his loss that’s all I can really say.”
Whether he wanted to believe it or not, the Camden community were very grateful for the students’ bravery that night and believed they should reunite with Albert so he could thank them in person like he wanted to.
30. A Heartfelt Reunion
Albert Parker was happy to reunite with his rescuers after they came forward and described the details of the fateful night. “You saved my life. Thank you,” Albert said. Albert’s other son Jamie was also there to thank the students for saving his father and said, “We had one tragedy. Thank God the other one didn’t happen and my father was saved. We want everybody to know how thankful we are for what they did.”
The six brave students who alerted the authorities and saved Albert included Corey Zytko, a senior majoring in business marketing; Resanovic, a mathematics major; Solis-Palma, a childhood-studies major; Meneses, a nursing student; Perez-Gayton, a mathematics senior, and Sehwan “Ricky” Park, a psychology student from South Korea.
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