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Mother of 9 year old hero: I just want him back
Crystal Vrooman did not know it was the last day she would see her son alive. Or that his final actions would make him a hero.
'It makes me really proud, it really does. But I just want him back," she said in a tearful interview-her first since the fatal fire that killed her son, her father and her grandfather.
When she hugged her son Tyler Doohan goodbye on Sunday night, he had a big smile on his face. That's because the next day was a school holiday and he had talked his mom into letting him spend the night with his grandfather.
"It was his best friend, and he just tried to save him."
Fire ripped through the mobile home Monday sometime after 4am. Crystal has pieced together the story of her son's final minutes with the help of family members who were there and survived.
Tyler's four year old cousin woke with his blanket covered in flames. He screamed "fire" and Tyler helped to wake other family members. Six of them made it out, including Tyler. When his grandfather wasn't among them, he went back in.
"He just ran to the back steps and my sister followed him and tried to stop him," said Vrooman.
Tyler and his aunt wound up in the bedroom with his grandfather, Stephen Smith. They were surrounded by smoke. Crystal Vrooman describes what happened next.
"My sister had his hand and I guess he let go of her and tried to get to my dad. She opened the window and he wasn't there anymore. She started feeling around through the smoke."
Her next thoughts are the ones that have plagued her since she learned of her son's death.
"All I keep thinking about is how he couldn't breathe, how scared he must have been," she said.
Tyler was found in the rear of the house, lying on the bed with this grandfather. His great grandfather Lewis Beach also died in the fire.
"I am so grateful he went with people that he loved. That he didn't cross over alone," said Vrooman. "I'm so glad that he was with his best friends."
Because of the heat of the fire-the medical examiner must use dental records to identify her son's remains. She may never be able to hold him-or even see him again.
"You never know when it's going to happen. Just hold your babies close and don't let them go," she said.
The family is grateful for expressions of support from people they don't even know.
Friends have set up a donation site to raise money for Tyler's burial. Others are gathering household goods and clothing for the extended family members who have lost everything.
Most recently Tyler decided he wanted to be an artist, or failing that, a hero in a comic book. He died before he could realize the first dream, but he is a real life hero.
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