Boy, 11, dies in fire at apartment complex

Jorge Galan, 11, died during a massive fire at a southeast Houston apartment complex early Saturday morning. His 31-year-old father and eight-year-old brother were transported to a hospital to be treated for minor injuries.

February 23, 2011 8:53:30 AM PST
An 11-year-old boy is dead and his father and younger brother are recovering after an apartment fire in southeast Houston.

Investigators are not yet saying what might have started the fire. They do tell us it started in or near what was a first floor apartment.

The boy who was killed lived just above that.

Alberto Aguilar is wearing sunglasses because his eyes still burn from the fire. He managed to escape, but went back in three times trying to save his 11-year-old son, Jorge Galan.

"But I couldn't," he said in Spanish and choked by tears.

Galan, a 5th grader at Garden Villas Elementary died in the fire. It ripped through the family's apartment complex around 3am Saturday, when they were all asleep. Aguilar saved his younger son, Alexis Aguilar, by making him jump from a second-story window.

The father fearlessly broke it with his hand. Still in pain, Aguilar told me Galan panicked in the fire and ran into their living room. He called for him to come back, but Galan never responded.

Galan's grandmother, Lydia Cruz, says she can't believe he's gone. Cruz says he was just at her house Friday night hours before the fire which ripped through the apartment where he, his younger brother and father slept.

Neighbor Devon Sandiford was just coming home around 3am, saw the flames and frantically tried to wake up neighbors.

"I was tryin'. I was tryin'," Sandiford said.

He says he saw Aguilar trying desperately to get his family out of his burning upstairs apartment.

"Was trying to break the glass and throwing the kids outside," Sandiford said. "I saw the father. He's bloody all over."

Tears were shed not only for Galan but for all those burned from their apartments; authorities say 18 families were forced out by smoke, fire or water damage. They were allowed only a few minutes to salvage some of their things.

The Red Cross is helping them food, clothing and shelter. But those are just things.

Cruz says she is heartbroken.

That grief only tempered may be by the destruction of the place where he died. The city deemed it too unsafe to leave standing. Even the rubble the family says is a too much of a reminder of what they lost.

The victim's father and eight-year-old brother were transported to a hospital, where they were treated and released.

Two firefighters also were injured while battling the blaze.