A soldier and the disabled woman he was trying to rescue from a blaze at her family home in central China died on Saturday after the paratrooper had earlier made two fearless forays into the flames to save her elderly parents.
Li Daozhou was on leave with his family in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, when a fire broke out in a neighbour’s flat, Chutian Metropolis Daily reported on Monday.
Accompanied by property management staff, the 30-year-old rushed to the scene and immediately ran inside the property.
By the time security guards had managed to switch off the power, Li had emerged from the fire and smoke supporting an elderly man, the report said.
As soon as the shaken resident was in safe hands, the soldier turned on his heel and dashed back into the blaze. Moments later he returned with the man’s elderly wife.
It was only when the couple were out of danger that Li was told that their bedridden daughter, a 51-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, was still inside the burning flat.
“Please save my daughter,” the father was quoted as saying at the time.
With no concern for his personal safety, the paratrooper made his third foray into the flames, but this time did not return alive.
Later, when firefighters had brought the blaze under control and were able to access the property safely, they discovered Li’s body with the couple’s daughter on his back.
With the dense smoke and disarray inside the flat, as well as having to carry the extra weight, the soldier had most likely become overwhelmed and disoriented, the report said.
“What a hero. What a remarkable soldier,” a neighbour was quoted as saying.
Li had been in the army for 13 years and had been eligible for discharge in 2017, but decided to stay on. He once wrote in his personal profile that he wanted to “be a person useful to society”.
He was survived by his wife and their five-year-old son and nine-month-old daughter.