SPRING, Texas – Precinct 4 Deputy Constable D. Santee doesn't feel like he is a hero, even though his actions clearly show he has more than earned that descriptor.
Santee is credited with risking his own life to save a 3-year-old boy from a burning home. The fire broke out in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday at a home on Pebworth near Cottonshire in Spring.
Santee broke down in tears as he recounted the morning he and his partner arrived at the burning home before the first firefighters made it to the house.
“I couldn't find the mother and the other kid,” Santee said.
Flames already engulfed the home, making it impossible for Santee and his partner to go inside through the front of the house.
“It was a pretty intense fire, a lot of heat, a ton of heat,” Santee said.
Santee and his partner ran into a neighbor’s backyard, kicked through a fence and made their way to the back of the burning home. As the pair was yelling for anyone inside the home to yell out, the smoke cleared just enough for Santee to see past a broken window.
"I could see a pair of legs, looked like they were a toddler’s legs," Santee said.
Without hesitation, Santee jumped into the smoke and flame to grab the little boy. Santee was nearly overcome by the smoke.
"I was afraid, I couldn't breathe, I couldn't stand up. I was afraid," he said.
Struggling to breathe himself, Santee got the boy to other deputies who immediately began CPR. After he caught his breath, he tried to go back for the mother and another child.
“That’s when we could hear moaning. That’s when we knew someone else was inside," Santee said.
By this time, the smoke and flames were too intense for anyone to get back into the house.
“After the fire was put out was when we found out the mother and the 5-year-old didn't make it,” Santee said.
The 3-year-old boy Santee wrenched from the flames survived, as did the boy’s father and a sibling who escaped before the deputies and firefighters arrived. Still, the Air Force veteran and father of three is uncomfortable being called a hero.
"Any person, any human in that exact same situation would do the exact same thing," Santee said.
Officials with the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office have not yet determined an exact cause of the fire, but said all indications are it started accidentally.