LARCHMONT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A man who saved a teenager trapped in the stairwell of his apartment building during a fire is being hailed as a hero Monday.

The neighbor, who spoke exclusively to CBS2’s Ali Bauman, didn’t hesitate to run into the burning building not once, but twice.

Nelida Dugarte bundled up her three kids before they walked through the ashen halls of their former home in Larchmont after a devastating fire nearly gutted their building Friday morning. She said through a translator that the smoke was “unbearable,” as was the fear that her kids might not make it out alive.

Dugarte said she tried bringing all three of her children out, but the thick smoke trapped her 13-year-old son, Luis Gonzalez, in the third story stairwell.

“I couldn’t breathe,” Luis said in Spanish. “I thought for a moment I was going to faint.”

He didn’t faint, but the teen collapsed on the floor unable to get back up in the suffocating smoke. With firefighters still on their way over, his panicked mother turned to neighbors who had already evacuated.

“She grabbed my arm, ‘my son is up there, my son is up there’,” good Samaritan Nelson Segovia said.

He never hesitated.

“I took the fire extinguisher from my floor and I went up to the upper floor,” he said. When he found Luis, he told the 13-year-old it was time to go.

Even after he reunited Luis with his mother, he went back in the burning building and started knocking on doors to make sure everyone made it out safely.

“I used to be a firefighter volunteer so that was my first reaction, to go up with a fire extinguisher and see what I can do,” Segovia said. On Monday, he met with the family in their apartment to see if any clothes or furniture were spared by the flames.

Even if their possessions are all gone, Dugarte said she’s forever grateful for the neighbor who saved what mattered most. Meanwhile, authorities say the entire building is evacuated for repairs.

Eight people were taken to the hospital because of the blaze, but they’re all expected to fully recover.


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