Phillip Blanks saved the child’s life, but sadly his mother did not survive the fire
In a heart-stopping video, 28-year-old Phillip Blanks can be seen acting with split-second accuracy to save the life of a toddler who was thrown from a burning building. After seeing the burning apartment building, Blanks dove to catch a 3-year-old boy — and ended up saving his life.
He tells the Washington Post he heard a commotion at a friend’s apartment building in Phoenix, and he ran outside and looked up to see a woman yelling from her third-floor balcony holding her child amid the flames. Warning: the video, captured on a cell phone by a bystander, is extremely hard to watch, even though the child — thankfully — survives.
“People started yelling for the lady to throw her kids down,” Blanks, a retired U.S. Marine and former college football player said. The mother dropped her son over the railing, and as he saw the child fall he dove forward with his arms outstretched.
“I immediately got tunnel vision of the baby and somehow managed to catch him,” Blanks said.
WATCH: When a 3-year-old boy was dropped from the third story of a burning building in Arizona, a former football player dove to catch him. That man was Phillip Blanks, a retired U.S. Marine, who saved the boy just before he hit the ground. pic.twitter.com/Hnq51iNu0E
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 9, 2020
After the boy was safely in Banks’ arms, he and some neighbors wrapped him in a blanket and tried to keep him calm until an ambulance arrived. Blanks credits his time in the Marines and his athletic training with his instinct to save the child. Being a Marine taught him to “always be on high alert, not be complacent and to have discipline,” he tells the Post.
The mother in the burning apartment, who has been identified as Rachel Long, ran back into the fire to her 8-year-old daughter after dropping her son from her balcony. Another bystander, D’Artagnan Alexander, heard there were children trapped inside the apartment and ran up the three flights of stairs to save the 8-year-old’s life.
“I heard someone scream for help and I found the girl on the floor and carried her outside,” Alexander tells the Post. He managed to escape the fire with only a few minor burns. “Everything happened so fast,” he said. “I didn’t have time to think, my body just kicked into action and I went in.”
The video of Blanks has gone viral on Twitter, with people all over the world acknowledging him for his bravery and quick reflexes.
Thank God for these men. So heartbreaking about the mom
— Patricia Arquette (@PattyArquette) July 10, 2020
Thank goodness for that man, glad the kid had a chance.
— Je Je (@BeanJeje) July 9, 2020
Hell of a catch, he broke that kids fall & caught him just enough, so kid didn’t hit the ground point blank & get hurt. Terrible what happened to the mother😥😥 A true mothers love- the kids will always have that to hang onto, that their mother died saving their lives. 💔 Tragic
— 🧞♀️DAE’💅🏽💁🏻♀️ (@chardizzle87) July 9, 2020
Ugh I just got the chills. 😢
— NayNay (@naychic8) July 9, 2020
Phillip Banks is a true American Hero!
— Dave Perrino @🏡 (@DavePerrino) July 10, 2020
The people saved two children and the family dog. The mother’s last act was tossing her children out. She didn’t survive. Prayers for all.
— Lana DaFree (@HomeDabrave) July 9, 2020
Wow, thank the heavens for this man.
— Laurie Farrell (@lauriefarrellPR) July 9, 2020
Tragically, their mother didn’t make it out of the fire alive. A GoFundMe was set up for the family — the husband and children, who are still hospitalized, have mounting medical bills and need a place to live along with clothes and other daily essentials.
Blanks and Alexander formed a bond after the July 3rd fire, with both taking heroic measures to save the children who would have been otherwise trapped inside or harmed from the fall. They say they got in contact with the children’s father, Corey Long, who is, understandably, incredibly grief-stricken but thankful to them for saving his children.
“Saving this child changed my entire perspective,” Blanks said. “It made me realize how short life is, and how we need to protect each other and treat people better.”
Though both men deserve all the credit in the world for their fast-acting bravery, they both agree the children’s mother should be recognized first and foremost. Her last act while alive on this earth was to try and save her children. Blanks calls her “the real hero,” and indeed she is.