*Phillip Blanks, a 28-year-old former high school football player and retired U.S. Marine, caught a child thrown from an apartment fire that killed the child’s mother.
Blanks told 12 News that he was at a friend’s apartment in Phoenix on Friday morning when he heard frantic screaming and a commotion. He immediately ran outside, barefoot, and saw the top floor of the apartment complex was on fire and lost in smoke. He saw flames encircle a terrified woman on a third-floor balcony with a child. “People started yelling for the lady to throw her kids down,” Blanks said.
The mother dropped her son over the railing. As Blanks saw the small child falling, he dove forward, arms out “and somehow managed to catch him,” Blanks said. He and neighbors wrapped the boy in a blanket and tried to soothe him until the ambulance arrived a few minutes later.
After the child’s mother — identified by 12NEWS as 30-year-old Rachel Long — dropped her son from the balcony, turned and went back into the burning apartment where her 8-year-old daughter was. Long never came out. Another bystander, 42-year-old D’Artagnan Alexander, ran inside the building and through the flames to save the 8-year-old. “I heard someone scream for help and I found the girl on the floor and carried her outside,” said Alexander, who managed to escape the building mostly unscathed, aside from a few minor burns. “Everything happened so fast,” he said. “I didn’t have time to think, my body just kicked into action and I went in.”