Fireman remembers rescue of Atio Castillo from burning house
Lords Ramos Hernandez, a 41-year-old Manila fireman, was driving on the morning of Sept. 18 when he heard about the hazing death of Horacio Castillo III on the radio.
The name struck him, and continued to linger in his mind until that night, when he saw the victim’s mother, Carmina Castillo, being interviewed on television. Hernandez remembered her as “Minnie” and recalled taking her statement 12 years ago after he rescued her family, including a 10-year old Horacio.
Hernandez then compared the rescue photos with recent photos of Castillo.
“I was shocked to find they looked alike,” Hernandez told the Inquirer. He added that he inspected the Castillo’s old residence just this year and asked the caretaker how the family was doing.
“It’s so heartbreaking to think that the 10-year-old kid that we rescued in a residential fire that happened in Paco, Manila, way back on Dec. 7, 2005, became a victim of a fatal hazing,” Hernandez said in a Facebook post.
The rescue operation was so remarkable that then Manila Mayor Lito Atienza awarded the 14 officers who were part of it in a City Hall ceremony in January 2006. The Office of the District Fire Marshal also issued a commendation to the 14 officers on Feb. 8, 2006, for the rescue.
“It is with great pride and honor that I commend you for the splendid performance that you portrayed when you successfully rescued the trapped victims, namely Horacio Castillo Jr. and his family,” the commendation read.
Hernandez told the Inquirer that the Castillo family was in “imminent danger” during the fire, and that he felt downtrodden because Horacio had been “living his second life.”
He said the fire had been going on for half an hour when they arrived at the scene. Had they come any later, it would have likely been too late. He recalled that the 3-storey building belonged to a relative of the Castillos and that the family was living on the 2nd floor when the fire occurred.
The fire razed the ground floor, forcing the family to retreat to the building’s roof deck.
It was there that Hernandez and his teammates saw young Horacio fall from the roof deck onto the canopy, where he was rescued.
“He was crying because his mom, sister and dog were still on the roof deck,” Hernandez said. The fire officers were able to rescue his family, but Horacio’s dog did not make it, making the boy grief-stricken.
Hernandez, who is now an officer in charge at Gagalangin Fire Station, visited Castillo’s wake on Sunday night at the request of the victim’s relatives.
“I hope my story about his rescue will somehow make the suspects feel guilty,” Hernandez said. /cbb
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