Wheelchair-bound man rescued from Rio Hondo apartment fire

Before apartment #25 at Casa De Valle in Rio Hondo was boarded up and lined with caution tape, there was 69-year-old Manuel Atkinson trapped inside.

He crawled himself to the living room... he got to the door ... But he couldn't open it," Manuel TMs sister Mary Atkinson said.

The wheel-chair bound man, who lost one of his legs to diabetes, was left with only one option to survive a mattress fire reportedly sparked by a night-light around 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

He had to scream," his sister said.

Atkinson is her brother TMs long-time provider. She had just left his apartment 30 minutes prior to the fire.

She said smoke filled his lungs during the agonizing wait for help. His wheelchair was left next to the bed when he fled to get to the door.

Because of the patient's fragile health condition, his doctor did not immediately grant Action 4 News an on camera interview.

And while his tale of terror would undoubtedly be memorable, so is the story from the man who was at the right place at just the right time to save Atkinson.

Please open the door... open the door... I'm lying down on the floor," Manuel TMs neighbor, Filiberto Perez recalled.

It was Perez and another man who came to his rescue.


They kicked down the door and entered the unknown inside the apartment filled with smoke.

"I don't think you could see this far," Perez said while sticking out his hand in front of his face.

Atkinson was dragged outside to safety by the men. The authorities were called.

Mary Atkinson said the apartment is a total loss.

His clothes, his wheelchair, food| everything he needs ... It's gone," she said.

But her brother was given a second chance.

Perez doesn TMt see himself as a hero.

I just tried to make a favor for somebody... he's my close neighbor... I would have done with anybody," he said.

Atkinson is expected to make a full recovery.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Anyone who would like to donate items, including a wheelchair, to help the family, should leave a message on Ryan Wolf TMs Facebook Fan Page:

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