CASTLE HILLS. Texas – Omar Parada, a former minister, recalls the moments he thought were his last inside the Wedgwood senior apartments.
“My lungs were hurting so bad and then the heat was so horrible there,” said Parada. “It was a death trap.”
One year ago, a fire swept through the apartments the morning of Dec. 28, 2014, on the 6700 block of Blanco Road.
Five people died as a result of the fire and more than a dozen were injured.
And for a time, more than 100 residents were unaccounted for.
Parada and his wife were asleep in their seventh floor apartment when the fire began.
“There was a lot of smoke, and all this yelling,” he said.
The couple was among the youngest residents of the Wedgwood who chose to live there due to his Miriam Parada’s disability.
The morning of the fire, Omar sent his wife down the stairs and stayed behind to help carry an elderly woman to the lobby.
Then he rushed back to his apartment for car keys.
"I heard some people screaming,” Omar said. “Some of them, they were giving up. They were sitting against the wall waiting for death to take them.”
Omar helped people to the stairwell and continued up to each floor guiding people to their only means of escape.
Then he finally made it to the seventh floor.
"It was pitch black. I couldn’t see anything,” Omar said. “I was trying to find my apartment and I heard these two ladies.”
He was dizzy, disoriented and bleeding.
Omar helped the women to the stairwell when one of them fell.
"I told the other lady, ‘why don’t I take you down and I'll come back for her?’ And she said, ‘no., I’m not going to leave her.’"
So he left to find help. He remembers those moments in the dark, smoky stairwell.
"When I was there Iasked 'so Lord, this is how I'm going to die?’”
Omar made it to lobby. But the two women on the seventh floor never made it out alive.
“I was unable to help them. They decided to stick together and they found them both together dead,” said Omar. “That's what kills me.”
“Its scary because I could have lost him,” says Miriam Parada.
“The Lord gave his life for us. I was willing to do that for them,” said Omar.
The Paradas are among dozens of residents who filed a lawsuit against Wedgwood and its ownership and management companies.
The cause of the fire could never be determined.