Authorities said a Vietnam veteran ran into his burning home multiple times to save his family and pets from a fire that left him presumably dead early Wednesday morning.
Wise County Fire Marshal Chuck Beard said seven people were inside the Decatur mobile home in the 200 block of Quail Chase Drive when the fire started at about 3 a.m.
Witnesses told NBC 5 that the homeowner, 65-year-old Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart recipient George Steele, went back into the home several times to rescue his children, extended family and pets. Steele’s wife, Faith, said he ran into the smoke-filled home one last time to help his aunt, who had already escaped through the back window.
“He died a hero,” neighbor Monica Schumpert said. “He died saving his family.”
Firefighters confirmed that they found a body in the home.
“[The] body is believed to be the homeowner who had been unaccounted for, but we are waiting for positive confirmation of [his] name before we can definitively say that,” Beard said.
Authorities said Steele’s 9-year-old son, Javier, was taken to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth in critical condition for burns and smoke inhalation. He had trouble breathing, so doctors transfered him to Parkland Memorial Hospital.
Steele’s 1-year-old son, Daniel, was also taken to Cook Children’s for smoke inhalation. Daniel remained at the hospital with his mother, Faith, but both are expected to be fine.
Betty Wilson, Steele’s 70-year-old aunt, suffered burns and was transported to Wise Regional Health System in Decatur in critical condition.
There is no word yet on the cause of the fire.