Published January 23, 2014
Friends and strangers have raised nearly $50,000 to fund the funeral of an 8-year-old boy who died after saving six relatives from a fast-moving blaze in his grandfather’s trailer home in western New York.
Tyler Doohan is being hailed as a hero days after he awoke his grandmother, aunt and cousins, including two children ages 4 and 6, after spotting the fire early Monday in the single-wide trailer in Penfield. The boy's body was later found near the bed of his disabled uncle, who authorities believe he'd gone back in to save in a doomed effort as brave as it was heartbreaking.
“It is extremely important to remember that, according to emergency personnel, [Tyler] was the person who discovered the fire and tried to wake the eight other people in the residence at the time," Interim Superintendent Richard Stutzman Jr. said in a statement. "In bravely and selflessly giving his own life, he was able to save the lives of six others — and he is truly a hero.”
As of early Thursday, more than $48,565 had been raised for Tyler to cover the boy’s memorial service, according to an online fundraiser. Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.
In addition to Smith, the boy's 57-year-old grandfather, Louis Beach, also perished, the Democrat & Chronicle reports.
Penfield Fire Chief Chris Ebmeyer said Tyler “saved those six other people” from a fire that apparently started due to an electrical problem.
“The roof has collapsed on the front half of the trailer and one of the individuals was found there, probably on a couch, but there was nothing left to even see if it was furniture,” Ebmeyer told the newspaper. “In the rear, there was a bedroom and the other deceased male was found in a bed. The child was a few feet away.”
Neighbors and school officials, meanwhile, remembered Tyler, of East Rochester, as an energetic boy who spent much of his young life in different homes and school districts.
Counseling and support services were made available to all students within the district and some students at East Rochester Elementary School visited with counselors, Stutzman told FoxNews.com.
Plans for a possible memorial are being mulled, but nothing had been finalized as of Wednesday, he said.
"We're just trying to get through the next few weeks," Stutzman told FoxNews.com.
Neighbor Jack Simms, 75, said Tyler, often a "mischievous little kid," spent a lot of time at the residence in the past few years.
"I saw him in the yard a lot," Simms told FoxNews.com. "He was kind of a wild boy, always active."
Simms said his wife witnessed the fire break out as she laid in bed early Monday, unable to sleep.
"She heard a boom and then saw a big flash of light," Simms continued. "Then she got out of bed and looked out the window and saw flames coming out of the door."
Within minutes, emergency responders and police officials were on the scene, Simms said. He was unable to see Tyler, who had apparently walked around the trailer in an attempt to reach his disabled uncle.
"It's very, very sad," Simms said, adding that mourners are leaving flowers and stuffed animals in honor of Tyler at a makeshift memorial outside the trailer home.
Other neighbors said they had been told by occupants of the trailer that officials of Morgan Management, which owns the Monroe County park, deemed it unlivable on at least one occasion and were concerned by the number of people living there.
“There was too many people, where would you put all those people?” neighbor Michelle Brosseau told the Democrat & Chronicle, adding that she considered notifying county officials. “Now, maybe, I wish I had called.”
FoxNews.com's Joshua Rhett Miller contributed to this report.