New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - March 31, 1996, New Braunfels, Texas
Family's resetters bailie flames, smoke
By DAVID DEKUNDER
The morning of Jan.
18 began cold and windy at the Cypress Grove Mobile Home Park.
Just like any typical morning, residents there were getting ready for work, eating breakfast and getting their kids ready for school.
But for six people — Willie Rangel, Steve Cayce, DeWayne Stinson, Paul Alvarado, Vaughn Budreau and Jim Donohoo — that day would forever change their lives. In a few minutes, all of them were transformed from everyday citizens to heroes who saved a mother and her three children from an inferno at her home.
It all started around 8:22 a.m. when Rangel, a maintenance man at the mobile home park, was backing his pickup into the workshop area. It was then he spotted the fire across a small field from where he was.
“I looked ahead as I was backing up and I saw the fire in the trailer,” Rangel said. “I knew the fire was more than what we could handle so I used my two-way radio in my truck and called the (Cypress) office. Laura Pawly answered and I told her to call the fire department because trailer No. 59 was on fire.”
In that burning trailer were Crystal Pape, 24, and her three children, Skyler, 5, Ciera, 3, and Savannah, I.
Rangel quickly drove his truck across the field by a pavilion and parked nearby the burning mobile home. He grabbed his master keys, which he has for every trailer in the park, and came up to the front door.
“As I approached the front door, I could hear the TV was on, so I started to holler,” Rangel said. “I got up to the front door and used my work keys to open the door. As I pushed the door open, the backdraft (from the fire) blew me off the steps (leading to the door).”
Not being able to enter through the front door, Rangel decided to take his chances entering the side front window of the trailer.
At that point, Porfirio Alvarado, came running from his home, trailer No. 40, across the field and to the scene of the fire.
“When I saw a little hand (of one of the children) reaching out of the window (of the burning trailer) trying to get out, I thought about my grandson,” Alvarado said.
Rangel and Alvarado then proceded to break the window so Rangel could go in.
With Alvarado at his side, Rangel went in and tried to get the family out of harm’s way. He went through the window into the bedroom, but the smoke was still thick and he could hardly breathe.
“We started breaking in ... we heard the moaning of a baby,” Rangel said. “The smoke was so thick you could literally chop it off... I was no more than two to three steps in the center of the bedroom when I began gagging. I told Paul (Porfirio) there was no way I could go without passing out.”
Rangel then directed Alvarado to go next door and get a blanket and wet it so that he could put it over his face and wrap it around his shoulders before trying to go into the trailer again.
Alvarado did so, and he also gave him his jacket.
Rangel went back in with the blanket over his shoulders, but Rangel said the blanket did not do any good because “it looked like it drew the fire like a magnet.”
But Rangel continued on and went
HerakJ-Zeitung photo by MICHAEL DARNALL
Heroes in the truest sense are (from left) Jim Donohoo, Willie Rangel, Porfirio Alvarado, Vaughn Budreau and Nancy Jernigan in front of the burned trailer.
forward until he felt the body of Crystal. At that poin), Rangel did not believe Crystal had much of a chance to live.
“I thought she was dead," Rangel said. “She was lifeless and hot.
"I then stumbled all the way to the window and to the nght of the window I felt the one-year-old (Savannah). I picked her up ... I was scared because she was so hot. I didn't know if the child’s skin w ould roll off.”
Rangel then handed Savannah to Alvarado, who was waiting outside the window.
"I started hitting her to get the mucus out of her mouth,” Alvarado said.
Alvarado then gave the child to a neighbor, who then took Savannah into her home and kept her wann until help amved.
As people began to gather, Rangel began to feel the body of another child.
Ciera, who was on the other side of Crystal. Because of the smoke and the need to catch his breath, it took Rangel two trips before he brought Ciera out and handed the little girl over to Alvarado and another mobile home park resident. Jim Donohoo.
"When Willie handed me the little girl, I thought she was dead,” Donohoo said
Then Rangel remembers seeing resident DeWayne Stinson and his friend Steve Cayce rush to the scene.
“At that point. I was trying to get the mother (Crystal) over the window,” Rangel said. “I went down on my knees crawling try ing to find the w indow ... DeWayne and Steve saw my hand dangling from the window and said to get out. I thought at first that my legs were on fire and told them I didn’t have the strength to get out "
Rangel said Cayce helped flipped him over the window so that he could get some air outside.
In the meantime, another park resident, Vaughn Budreau and his roommate Nancy Jemigan came to help at the scene.
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"When I came there, I was nght at the bedroom window,” Budreau said. “There was lots of confusion and I could hardly see (in the room of the trailer).”
Both Budreau and Alvarado retrieved a hacksaw from Rangel’s truck and began to cut the window out in an attempt to get Crystal out quickly. However. Rangel said, this process was taking a long time, so he retrieved a pick axe from his truck and said, with the help of Budreau, Stinson and Alvarado, "grabbed the whole middle (of the window) and yanked it out all at once.”
At this time, Alvarado said. Stinson had put her on the window sill in an attempt to carry her out. Then it was Cayce to the rescue, he rushed into the bedroom and according to the eyewitnesses at the scene helped pull Cry stal by the waist and legs while Rangel.
Budreau and Stinson pulled her by the amis and laid her on the ground.
But five-year-old Skyler was still in the burning trailer.
“When we were breaking the windows (to let the smoke out), I heard moaning.” Rangel said. "I knew another child was in there ... I reached the bedtoom door and on my way back I stumbled over the five-year-old. I told Paul. ‘Here’s the final child.’ I made an attempt to go back and get him. You could see better now because the smoke was filing out. I then picked up the child and went to the window.”
Rangel went to the bathroom and closet areas to check if there were more children or people in the trailer. He found none so he exited out of the window.
Skyler was handed to Budreau. Jemigan, Donohoo and other neighbors who took them and covered all the children
with blankets to make sure they were nice and warm.
At that time helped arrive from both the Lake Dunlap and Lake McQueeney Fire Departments. Seguin and New Braunfels EMS were called to the .cene. * --
“I thought the little boy was dead because his eyes were in one position, fixed,” Donohoo said. “His legs were black from soot. We tried to massage his legs and chest so that we could circulate his blood and get him moving.”
The two kids were then taken to a next door trailer so that both Skyler and Ciera could get warmth and cover. Donohoo said.
Meanwhile, Budreau, who suffers from asthma had to go back to his trailer to regain his breath.
“Vaughn had to come back to his trailer and get his inhaler,” Jemigan said.
Budreau said he struggled maintaining his breathing during the fire.
“I am asthmatic, so when the wind or smoke changed, I couldn’t breathe,” Vaughn said. “I was cold and I only had my shirt, shorts and mocassins on.”
Alvarado, who suffers from a bad back and cannot lift more than IO pounds, literally was crawling home after the fire ended.
“I crawled back home (from his front yard) with a herniated disc,” Alvarado said. “It had put everything out of place (in his back). My son carried me to my truck and my wife drove me to New Braunfels (McKenna Hospital)."
Alvarado said he received pain injections for his back while he was at McKenna and was out of commission for three weeks. He also had to go through therapy so he could get back to where he was before. , ,.r
taken to a San Antonio area hospital and were released within three days.
Guadalupe County Fire Marshal Don McFarland said the efforts of all the rescuers involved proved the difference between life and death for Crystal and the Pape children.
Crystal, Skyler, Ciera and Savannah all are getting their lives back, together again along with Chad Pape, the father. Chad was at work at the time the fire started. They are all living in a new trailer at the trailer park.
"I am really grateful and thankful,” Crystal said about her rescuers. “It shows that there are still some good people out there.”
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