Firefighter who saved Atio’s life calls student's death ‘heartbreaking’

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 23 2017 11:28 PM | Updated as of Sep 24 2017 03:44 PM

A firefighter and a resident assist Horacio Castillo III, 10 years old at the time, after being rescued from a fire in their Paco, Manila home on December 7, 2005. Photo courtesy of Lords Hernandez

MANILA—Lords Hernandez was taking his daughter to school on Monday when news broke that Horacio “Atio” Castillo III was killed in an apparent hazing.

The death struck him hard because he was one of the firefighters that saved Castillo's life in 2005.

“Nakita ko sa Teleradyo iyong tatay. Sabi ko familiar iyong name. Then noong gabi sa 'TV Patrol,' nakita ko na si Carmina (Castillo, Atio's mother). Doon ko na-confirm,” Hernandez told ABS-CBN News on Saturday.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Hernandez expressed his grief over Atio’s death. 

"It's so heartbreaking to think that the 10-year-old kid that we rescued in a residential fire that happened in Paco, Manila way back Dec. 7, 2005 became a victim of a fatal hazing," he wrote.

 

Hernandez, an arson investigator for the Manila Fire Department at the time, said the family was trapped on the roof deck of their 3-story home when he and the Paco Fire Station responded to the scene.

"Na-trap sila doon sa taas ng roof deck na iyon. Sa second floor sila nakatira. Di sila makababa," Hernandez recalled.

"Then ang nangyari, si Horacio Jr., iyong tatay, umakayat doon sa may fence ng roof, dala-dala niya ang bata. Nasa dibdib niya."

Hernandez said "Atio" slipped off his father's arms but was unharmed because a window canopy broke his fall. The father suffered a leg injury.

Castillo's mother, Carmina, meanwhile, was unhurt because firefighters brought her down using a ladder, which they attached from the neighboring 2-story building.

Hernandez, now with a rank of fire officer 2 and is the Engine OIC of Gagalangin Fire Station in Tondo, said he and the other firefighters who responded to the incident in 2005 will attend Atio's wake on Sunday.

It was Hernandez himself who snapped the nearly 12-year-old photo of the young Castillo as he was being carried off by two men.

He said taking pictures of what they do serves a "sentimental" purpose, part of the reason why he has kept Castillo's photo all this time.

"Every fire rescue kasi is an achievement not by myself but also of the whole fire department, so important sa aming mga firemen iyan," Hernandez said, "because all fire incidents have their own story."

Castillo, 22, died of massive injuries consistent with hazing, according to an autopsy report.

Castillo's family found his body at the hospital early Monday after receiving an anonymous text message.