Young victim of W. Baltimore fire to be removed from life support

The 8-year-old boy who risked his life to save his younger brother and sister from their burning home in West Baltimore was to be taken off life support on Tuesday, family members said.

Decerio Coley rescued his 4-year-old sister early Monday by throwing her from a window of their rowhome in the 300 block of N. Bruce St. and into the arms of onlookers below, according to city fire officials, family and neighbors.

Decerio returned to the flames to try to save his 7-year-old brother, Sean McCullough. Sean died after firefighters arrived on the scene.

Angelo Jones, the boy's grandfather, said the family gathered Tuesday at Johns Hopkins Children's Center before he was to be taken off life support. He died between 7 and 8 p.m. at Johns Hopkins Children Center, said Ian Brennan, a fire department spokesman. 

Tiffany Bennett, Decerio's grandmother, said the family was planning on "donating his body to help others." She said the boy would be an organ donor.

"We are grieving as a family tonight," Bennett said.

She said the family remained at the hospital but would spend the night together at a hotel. Their home was badly damaged in the blaze, and a pile of their burned belongings remained outside.

Earlier Tuesday, the Fire Department mistakenly said in a news release that the boy had died. Department spokesman Ian Brennan said the media relations unit received incorrect information and sent it out.

Firefighters pulled the boys from the second floor of their rowhome shortly after 1:30 a.m. Monday. Sean was pronounced dead a short time later. The sister has been released from the hospital.

Decerio's uncle, Ronnie Davis, said he had heard that during the fire onlookers told Decerio to jump.

"He said, 'No, Sean is still there,'" Davis said. "Then he went back for his brother even though it was still burning."

Neighbor Dwayne Harrison called Decerio "a fighter."

"He was a hero," he said.

Harrison said he and others attempted to go into the house to save the boys. Their father had been working an overnight shift at 7-Eleven. The grandparents and the children's mother had been in the basement and managed to get out.

Harrison said the boys were always together, from the early morning when they would bang on his door and ask to be pulled around in his wagon. In the evenings, he said, they loved to join him and his wife when they pulled out their red charcoal grill to make fresh fish, potatoes and onions.

"Can I have some?" he recalled the little boy saying.

Harrison's wife, Tiffany, said Decerio loved fish and recently ate crabs with the couple.

Harrison said all three children were very respectful. Although most of the houses on the narrow block are vacant, he said, Decerio often felt compelled to pick up trash along the street.

Harrison said Decerio would tell his younger siblings to watch out for cars. He said it was no surprise that the boy who was so protective on the street would duck back into the flames to search for his brother.

"That was his first instincts," Harrison said.

Davis said everyone knew the boy as "Turtle," for his love of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Sun reporter Nayana Davis contributed to this report. 

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad