Dramatic footage has captured the heartbreaking moment a mother threw her three-year-old son off the balcony of their burning apartment before dying moments later in the blaze.
The huge fire took hold of Rachel Long’s apartment block in Phoenix, in the US state of Arizona, on July 3 before engulfing her third-floor home and trapping the mother along with her son and eight-year-old daughter.
Witnesses at the scene said they looked up in horror as Ms Long’s body had caught fire, ABC15 reported.
She then made the snap decision to throw her son off their balcony in the hope bystanders below would save him.
Video from the scene shows Phillip Blanks, a former college footballer, sprinting to catch the child.
Mr Blanks, 28, told ABC7 the boy “was twirling in the air like a propeller”.
“I just did my best. His head landed perfectly on my elbow. His ankle got twisted up as I was diving.”
However Ms Long did not survive the fire.
The boy and his sister, who was pulled from the apartment by a neighbour, were rushed to the hospital with significant burns, but were expected to survive.
Mr Blanks brushed off praise for his quick-thinking, instead labelling Ms Long the “real hero of the story”.
“She made the ultimate sacrifice to save her children,” he said.
Multiple residents were evacuated from the building before the fire department arrived.
Phoenix Fire Department spokesman Captain Kenny Overton reported no firefighters were injured and an adult victim was taken to the hospital with a leg injury.
Investigations into the cause of the fire are ongoing.
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