SAN ANTONIO – A Northwest Side man says he did what he could to reach a neighbor who he believed was trapped inside a burning apartment.
Joan Espinoza says his girlfriend, who woke up before 4 a.m. to use the restroom, first noticed a smoky haze in their apartment in the 9200 block of Dartbrook Drive.
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She then woke him up, setting in motion what he thought would be a rescue effort.
“I look, I could see thick smoke coming from my vent, from my next door neighbor. So I go outside and I could hear the fire alarm going off,” he said.
Espinoza immediately knew something was wrong and ran to the apartment next door, hoping to help, and losing a shoe along the way.
“I go to the front door and I knock and lo and behold, the door’s open. I go in the door and it’s so smoky I can’t even see in there,” Espinoza said.
He said he made three attempts to stand up to that smoke.
Eventually, though, he had to back out and wait for help to arrive.
Espinoza called 911, bringing dozens of San Antonio firefighters and police to the scene.
Firefighters eventually were able to reach the man who they found in a bedroom.
They say they tried to perform CPR on that 38-year-old victim, but they were not able to save him.
Arson investigators arrived with an accelerant-sniffing dog and carefully went through the apartment looking for clues.
Firefighters say there was more smoke than fire, so there was no fire damage to any other apartments in that building.
Residents evacuated as a precaution, taking with them pets and anything else they could carry.
After a few hours they were allowed back into their homes.
Firefighters say there were no other injuries.
As of late Monday morning, arson investigators still had not determined the cause of the fire.
In an unusual occurrence, crime scene investigators with SAPD also spent several hours at the scene.
A public information officer for SAPD declined to discuss what their role was in the investigation, instead deferring to the fire department for all information.