A 63-year-old disabled Marine veteran living in Las Vegas lost his life Saturday while trying to save his neighbors after a fire erupted through his apartment complex.
Tenants of the apartment complex said that Donald Keith Bennett demonstrated true heroism as he raced through the blazing complex around 4 a.m., “pounding on doors and screaming ‘fire’ in the face of a rolling, relentless black smoke enveloping the hallways,” the Review-Journal reported.
Bennett was the maintenance man at the Alpine Motel Apartments, located in downtown Las Vegas.
Anthony Meadows Jr., 35, who lived in apartment No. 41 at Alpine said, “The guy … who saved everybody’s life? His name is Don.”
Meadows said that he and his girlfriend survived the blaze because of Bennett’s actions. Bennett banged on their door to wake them, ignoring the heavy smoke that likely led to his death.
Meadows said, “He was the maintenance man. He was a veteran. He stayed on the second floor in Apartment No. 25. Don knocked on everyone’s door and said, ‘Fire! Fire! Fire!’”
Another tenant, Floyd Guenther, 46, said, “The maintenance guy, Don, he was trying to kick the back-stairway doors open, and he couldn’t get them open. The back door to the apartment complex was bolted shut, locked up. Couldn’t get out of it.”
Tenants of the complex said that because of Bennett’s actions, many were able to escape the blaze. In total, Bennett and five others lost their lives in the blaze.
The other victims of the blaze were identified on the Clark County, Nevada Facebook page as: Henry Lawrence Pinc, 70; Tracy Ann Cihal, 57; Francis Lombardo, Jr., 72; Cynthia Mikell, 6 and Kerry Baclaan, 46.
Tony Carrillo, the manager of a nearby United Mini-Mart, said, “He was a really good guy. Very helpful, very polite. I actually used to live there, and whenever I needed something, he helped me out.” He added that Don was a daily customer too.
Ray Bennett, a cousin of Don’s, from Baltimore said, “He was a Marine, and on top of that, he loved people. It is not surprising. Helping people … it was in his DNA.”
Bennett’s siblings said that their brother was born in Goldsboro, N.C., in 1956. After high school, Bennett joined the Marine Corps and went on to serve in Okinawa for at least three years.
His brother Charles Bennett said, “He was a very devoted father.”
Charles added, “There are heroes among us.”
According to his other brother Russell, “He was very outgoing, and he loved being around people.”
All of his family members agreed that he was a caring and loving man who put others before himself.
His family is reportedly working with limited funds in an effort to give Don a proper burial.
“We would also like to know what the owners of the complex are going to do for the victims, especially those who lost their lives,” Ray said.
Bennett is survived by three adult children, two daughters and a son.
The family has set up a GoFundMe account to help with Bennett’s burial expenses.
Funeral arrangements are expected to be handled by Heritage Mortuary.