Man clinging to life after saving 7 from duplex fire

Man clinging to life after saving 7 from duplex fire

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by Abbey Gibb

kgw.com

Posted on April 29, 2013 at 11:44 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 30 at 9:25 AM

PORTLAND-- A Portland man clings to life this evening, after rescuing seven people, including five family members, from a raging duplex fire.

36-year-old John Zeller is a volunteer with the Clackamas County Search and Rescue, but in the early morning hours last Wednesday, he became even more. He became a hero.

"John was screaming at everyone to get up, there's a fire. Half the garage was engulfed," said John's sister, Theresa Zeller.

Zeller said the whole family is alive because of her brother.

"I didn't realize how bad it was because he was just so strong running through there, like there was nothing wrong with him," she added.

Flames engulfed the family's Southeast Portland duplex on April 24th. John spotted the fire first, saving his five family members and two neighbors.

"I keep seeing his eyes, his face, the fear."

The fear, not for himself or the flames but that he wouldn't be able to save everyone else. Now he lays in a hospital bed with second degree burns. A ventilator doing the work his charred lungs can't. His family, sitting in the Oregon Burn Center's lobby, waiting. Among them, his twin brother.

"Why did it take something like this to finally get me to see him?" asked Jeremy Zeller.

Brotherly pride and Jeremy's tours of duty in the Navy, kept the two from seeing each other for 17 years, until Monday.

"What if something happens, a turn for the worst and I waited all these years? It's constant regret. It wasn't the reunion I wanted, but it was really nice to see him again," said Jeremy.

Investigators still aren't sure what started the fire.

John could be in the hospital for months.

The family has set up an account to help: "John Zeller fire relief contribution fund" at Bank of America

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