Heroic Teen Saves Younger Brother from Brighton Beach Fire Only to Get Trapped and Die

NY Daily News - February 27, 2012

by John Doyle AND Kerry Burke

Jhordan Caballero, 18, was home baby-sitting his 8-year-old brother when fire broke out

A heroic Brooklyn man who saved his kid brother from their burning house and then selflessly rushed back in to save an elderly neighbor died of smoke inhalation Friday. Jhordan Caballero, 18, was home baby-sitting his 8-year-old brother, Renzo, when a fire broke out on the first floor of their two-story frame Brighton Beach home.

Despite the heavy smoke and intense heat, Caballero was able to guide the younger boy out of the building to safety across the street.

The Kingsborough Community College freshman then rushed back into the building to help a 61-year-old woman who lived on the first floor where the fire started, but the elderly woman was stuck behind her apartment door.

Caballero sprinted up to the two-room, second-floor apartment that he shares with his parents and his brother to call 911.

"By the time he got back downstairs he was overcome with smoke," said his aunt, Karina Ruggiero.

He was unconscious when firefighters found him.

"The building was like an inferno," said Olga Martynchuk, 39, a neighbor.

She said Caballero was covered in soot when he was pulled from the house.

"I couldn't tell that it was him at first," Martychuk said. "He was all black with smoke, you couldn't see his eyes."

She said firefighters fought hard to save him. But he died at Coney Island Hospital soon after.

"First one fireman and then another, and then a third and even a fourth they all took turns pumping his chest, but they could do nothing," Martychuk said.

The younger brother and the neighbor, who was pulled out by firefighters, were treated for smoke inhalation at the same hospital, officials said.

Young Renzo idolized his older brother, who took care of him while their eletrician father and home health care aide mother worked.

"We told Renzo that Jhordan's in heaven and that he would be our angel," their mother, Jenny Cornejo, 46, explained through tears. "They were always together. We worked so they were alone. Jhordan helped him with his homework. They were very close."

"He always liked to help other people, not just his family," she said. "To me he will always be a hero."