A former Marine and wide receiver in college American football ran towards a burning building in Phoenix, Arizona, on Friday to catch a three-year-old boy who was thrown from the building by his mother.
Phillip Blanks, in a dramatic video filmed by a witness on a mobile phone, is seen catching the boy, Jameson Long, after hearing the child’s mother scream for help from inside the building.
Blanks, 28, said he rushed to the scene barefoot after hearing a noise outside his apartment building. Initially thinking a fight had occurred, he soon realized that an apartment building was on fire and a woman was just preparing to throw his son from a third-floor balcony.
Blanks managed to catch the boy just before he hit the ground and carried him to safety.
The boy came down “twirling in the air like a propeller,” Blanks told ABC.
“His ankle got twisted up as I was diving,” he continued. “The guy who was there with me — it looked like he wasn’t going to catch him. So that’s why I stepped in. I just wanted to make a better catch.”
The former Marine, who now works in security, said the catch was instinct: “There wasn’t much thinking. I just reacted. I just did it.”
Blanks, who played as a wide receiver for Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California, said the training during his days at Saddleback helped him save the boy.
“I know how to catch,” he said. “I’ve learned how to catch a football. So I’ll give some credit to football.”
Blanks also believed his time in the U.S. Marines helped: “I can definitely credit to the Marine Corps for instilling this good training in me to save a life. I don’t see myself as a hero. A person trained to do my job is trained to protect people.”
Although Blanks was able to save the boy in the fire, the 30-year-old mother, Rachel Long, did not survive the blaze.
“She’s the real hero of the story,” Blanks told ABC. “Because she made the ultimate sacrifice to save her children.”
A GoFundMe for the Long family states: “Rachel was able to make it to the balcony, where she dropped her son, Jameson, to neighbors waiting below.
“Eyewitnesses stated that Rachel was on fire at that time, but rather than jumping herself to safety, she went back in for her daughter Roxanne and sadly, did not return. Reports say a passerby kicked in the door of an already engulfed apartment and heroically saved Roxxi.”
Jameson and his eight-year-old sister were taken to the hospital with burns. Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire.
Watch the incredible moment Blanks saves Jameson below: