SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The first deadly house fire of 2016 in Springfield claimed a four-year-old victim.
Ben Garrison died around two Friday morning at a local hospital. His father and 18-month-old brother were also injured.
The fire broke out Thursday afternoon in the 2100 block of West Lee Street in Springfield.
The four-year-old was found near where the fire started in the back porch area.
This was a terrible tragedy, but fire officials say the swift actions of a neighbor made a big difference.
Improvising is nothing new for local rapper Theron Teeter, but the knock on his door Thursday would catch anyone off guard.
“It was my neighbor,” said Teeter. “And he was like, ‘help me– the house is on fire!”
Not only was his neighbor’s home in flames, but a four-year-old boy was inside.
“I ran to the back door, kicked it in and looked inside– everything was on fire,” said Teeter. “I looked to the left, and the boy was laying there unconscious– literally on fire– so I picked him up, brought him outside and set him down– started doing CPR on him.”
“He reacted,” said Teeter’s Roommate Mike Wallace. “He went — he didn’t hesitate or think about the flames.”
It was an experience Mike Wallace and Theron Teeter say they won’t forget.
“It was terrible,” said Wallace.
“Yeah,” added Teeter. “It was nothing at the time– because I was just doing what instinct told me to– but afterward, now that he’s gone– it’s really horrible.”
Four-year-old Ben was found unconscious in the area the fire broke out. There was a washer-dryer and a water heater– along with a propane cylinder and three gasoline containers.
“That’s definitely something we are looking at– to see if fuel had been spilled and then the fumes from that fuel got to a water heater and caused a flash fire,” said Springfield Fire Department’s Fire Marshal Mark Epps. “That’s a theory we are looking at at this point.”
As fire crews continue to investigate, the community thinks of Ben and his family– as they hope for healing.
“Most of us on the department have children– so it definitely strikes home,” said Epps. “When you get home, you tend to give your kids a bigger hug because you know these tragedies can happen.”
“You just don’t expect that,” said Wallace. “Nobody ever expects anything like that. The story didn’t end like it should’ve.”
One smoke alarm was found in the home– but the battery was placed backwards, so it didn’t function.
Ben, his brother and his father were only staying at the home for a few days– and investigators believe the father was asleep at the time the fire broke out.
Mike and Theron plan on holding a benefit concert for Ben’s family at the Outland Ballroom on February 4.