The inferno was so bright that Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy Alexander Maldonado could see the flames from down the block.
With no time to wait for the fire department to arrive, Maldonado and fellow deputy Kevin Reich knew they had to get the child out of the house.
“That was the only thought at that point in time,” Maldonado said.
On Friday, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office released body-cam footage showing the deputies’ efforts to save the 9-year-old boy.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said at the news conference. “This child is alive today because of their heroic actions.”
Maldonado and Reich arrived at the house in Seffner, Fla., at 10:48 p.m. on Thursday. Reich’s body-cam video shows him running up to the front porch, where a mother said that her son was still inside his bedroom. Wielding his expandable baton, Reich smashed the boy’s bedroom window as the mother yelled his name.
“Owen! Right here, baby. Right here, baby,” the mother bellowed, body-cam footage shows.
But the boy wasn’t responding, and behind the freshly shattered glass, waves of thick smoke flooded the 9-year-old’s bedroom. Deputies couldn’t see anything but clouds of gray.
Reich shined his flashlight into the bedroom.
“Come over to the light,” he said to the boy. “Stick your hands out.”
Maldonado then heard coughs, cries and groans, he said at the news conference.
“So we knew that he was somewhere in that room. It was just a matter of where in the room and how far into the room he was,” Maldonado said.
Reich’s body-cam footage shows him rounding the corner of the house in an attempt to break down a side door. But it wouldn’t budge. So he headed back to the bedroom windows just in time for Maldonado to call out for help.
“Right here! Right here!” Maldonado hollered. “Come here! Get up, bud.”
“Reach out to us! Keep coming!” Reich added.
Leaning into the smoky abyss, Reich attempted to grab the boy, video shows.
“Give me your hand,” he said.
The deputies then pulled the boy’s limp body through the window and carried him to the front lawn, where his mother collapsed beside him. The boy was barely responsive, letting out only small moans; his bare chest was covered in ash.
“He’s breathing, he’s breathing,” the mother said. “Baby, you’re okay.”
Paramedics took the boy to Tampa General Hospital, where he was “in severe condition due to burns and smoke inhalation” as of Friday, the sheriff’s office said in a news release.
“I hope he makes a speedy recovery,” Maldonado said. “Hopefully if we’re able to see him … he’ll be in a better state.”