Witness describes attempt to save Columbus house fire victim

Witness describes attempt to save victim of Columbus house fire

Columbus, GA (WTVM) - A witness who saw a house on Bunker Hill Road go up in flames that claimed a man's life is speaking out.

Kia Robinson was on her way to deliver pizzas when she said she noticed one man running from the house, where first responders found Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Thomas O'Brien, 87. 

The level of smoke made her stop in her tracks and try to help both men to safety. 

"I actually delivered before," Robinson said, "and I'd seen a big cloud of smoke, like dark smoke."

However, the man who ran outside told her there was someone still inside the burning house.

"My first instinct was to see if there was another way besides the front door where I'd seen the smoke coming from," Robinson said. 

While talking to police over her cell phone, Robinson saw others step in to help call for the man. 

"A lot of people were coming to help. Not just to look but to actually help," she said. 

But the smoke prevented them from jumping in to pull him out, Robinson said.  

"The firefighters came, and they went in and grabbed him, but when they grabbed him, he was like taking his last breath," she said. "I just wish that we would have been able to get to him faster, and I apologize to the family that we couldn't."

The Muscogee County Coroner's Office said O'Brien died from smoke inhalation. 

The man who first ran out of the house was taken in for medical treatment, and his condition remains unknown. 

A chief with the Columbus Fire Department says the cause of the fire was food left on the stove. The estimated cost of damage to the home is $150,000.

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