PHOENIX (CBS) – A former high school football player dove to catch a child who was dropped from the third floor of a burning building, CBS affiliate WWMT reports. Philip Blanks, a former wide receiver for Kalamazoo Central High School in Michigan and a retired U.S. Marine, saved the child during an apartment fire in Phoenix.
Bystander video of the July 3 fire and Blanks’ catch went viral. He told WWMT this week he was at the apartment complex to meet up with a friend for an early-morning workout. That’s when he heard screaming.
Without hesitation, Blanks raced over to catch a young child he says was “twirling like a helicopter” as he fell from the third floor balcony, WWMT reports.
“People were screaming ‘there are kids up there’ and to throw the kids down,” Blanks said. “I saw another guy was standing there ready to catch the boy, but he didn’t look like he was going to do it, so I stepped in front of him. The way I caught him, I fell on my side, and of course damaged his foot, but the most important thing is that his head was safe.”
Video shows Blanks cradle the child as he falls, then get up and run away from the burning building with the boy in his arms.
Another video taken by a bystander appears to show a woman believed to be the child’s mother, Rachel Long, throwing her son over the balcony, Arizona’s Family reports. The boy has been identified as a 3-year-old named Jameson, according to the station.
Long was on fire but went back into the apartment to save her daughter, 8-year-old Roxxie, her family told the outlet. Roxxie was saved by another good Samaritan, but the mother did not survive the fire.
Blanks also spoke to Arizona’s Family on Wednesday, saying Long is “the real hero in this story, not me.”
“She had the strength and the courage to get them outside – that’s powerful,” Blanks said. “To be in that type of situation and still care about life, not yours, that’s very strong of her. She’s a warrior.”
Blanks said after catching the child, he looked for a place in the parking lot to set him down, and someone opened up their car for him. Another bystander laid a wet sheet on the boy to help ease his pain from the burns, Arizona’s Family reports.
“For about a minute, I was just holding him as he was screaming and I was telling him that it was going to be OK, everything’s going to be OK,” Blanks said.