Her Breath Fading, Child's Plea Is Heard

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 28, 2007

A faint cry for help told Ryan Parker that his 8-year-old niece, Izabel, was trapped in their burning home. When he called her name, no reply came. So Parker tied his T-shirt around his head and dived through a broken basement window into a pit of smoke.

Holding his breath and unable to see, Parker felt his way across the floor of his niece's bedroom in the basement until he found her limp body crumpled against the door. He threw her over his shoulder and struggled back across the room. But he couldn't find the window. He pulled the T-shirt from his head and felt smoke pour into his lungs. Gagging, he reached up once more into the blackness -- and felt his younger brother's hand.

Parker hurled Izabel Berageti through the window to safety. He doesn't remember climbing out.

Parker, 21, rescued his niece early yesterday from a fire that destroyed the rambler where they lived in the Montgomery County community of Aspen Hill. His sister's boyfriend awakened the other occupants, rousting them from their beds. A family dog named Skrappy was the only victim.

"As long as my niece is still here and I'm able to see her another day, that's all I'm worried about," Parker said, reclining in an armchair yesterday in the soggy front yard of his smoldering home. "I don't feel like a hero. I just feel like I did what I was supposed to do."

The fire started in the basement laundry room about 2:30 a.m., and the home did not have working smoke detectors, fire officials said. Everyone was asleep but 16-year-old Dylan Parker, Ryan's brother, who was on the phone with his girlfriend.

Blake Gales, the 21-year-old boyfriend of Dylan and Ryan's sister Cecelia Parker, had returned to the home just after 2:30. He walked in and smelled burning plastic.

Gales went to the basement, where Cecelia, 18, and their 15-month-old daughter, Camren, were sleeping. He came face-to-face with Dylan, "standing there, like he was lost," Gales said. He sent Dylan upstairs to wake his mother, Karen Parker. Then he ran to the room where Cecelia and Camren were sleeping and awakened them. Next, he went to Ryan's room.

The family gathered outside the house. Ryan Parker asked the others, "Is anyone still in there?"

Izabel was nowhere to be found. Someone would have to go back in.

Gales and the Parker brothers went to the back door, the shortest route to the basement and Izabel's room, and met an impenetrable wall of smoke.

They broke through her bedroom window. Ryan Parker yelled, "Izabel, say something. Let us know you're all right." She managed one soft cry for help.

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