The amazing rescue of a construction worker by Houston firefighters has been watched more than 8 million times on the internet.
Now, more than two years after the Axis Apartments burned to the ground, just-released video obtained by the KHOU 11 News I-Team shows the dramatic moments from a whole new perspective.
It was captured by a camera inside a pair of glasses worn by Firefighter Dwayne Wyble.
Wyble was driving the second of five ladder trucks initially sent to the fire at the apartment complex that was still being built.
He had no idea what he was about to record.
“You never know what you’re going to see,” Wyble told the I-Team.
At first it wasn’t much. In the video only smoke is coming from a far corner of the apartment building.
Firefighters tell Wyble that there’s a report of a guy on the roof, but from his vantage point, Wyble can’t see anyone.
What he didn’t know was that Curtis Reissig, a construction supervisor, was inside gasping for air.
“I thought they’re going to find my body right here,” recalled Reissig. “They’re going to find me dead right here.”
Reissig ran to the roof to try and put out what started as a small fire, but the flames soon spread and he was inside the building, cutoff by heavy smoke and flames.
“I could see, as they say, your life flash before your eyes,” said Reissig. “I saw my mom, my wife, my loved ones. I saw all them and I said I've got to get out of this.”
But outside, things were getting worse. The fire, not even visible at first, was spreading quickly.
“You gotta hurry,” Wyble told fellow firefighters as they started up the ladder.
“It’s the first time we’ve even seen anything like that,” he recalled watching how quickly the fire spread.
Reissig, couldn’t believe it either as he watched the video for the first time.
“Oh man, look at that,” he said. Finally, he was able to make his way out to a fifth floor balcony where he was spotted by Wyble. But the fire was outpacing the ladder.
“We got to get him quick,” Wyble recalled thinking.
“You know it’s a matter of minutes?” the I-Team asked the veteran firefighter.
“Seconds,” he said.
But then Reissig made a life-or-death decision and dropped to the fourth floor balcony below him as Wyble swung the ladder his way.
“I know they’re doing all they can, but in a situation like that, it seems like an eternity,” explained Reissig.
Seconds later, the ladder arrived.
“We got him,” Wyble recalled. “I had no idea there would be a catastrophic collapse within seconds.”
The video captured the moments, seconds after Reissig’s rescue, as a chunk of the burning fifth floor collapsed and fell feet from Wyble’s truck.
“When I heard that first crack, I thought it was over,” Wyble remembered.
“When the wall collapsed, it was just like this thing is never going to give up on me,” Reissig said. “It’s going to get me one way or another.”
But it didn’t and Reissig made it down the ladder to safety.
“It still brings up a lot of emotions,” Reissig explained. "It makes me super grateful for the firefighters…and the risks they take to save us.”
But Wyble, now in his 33rd year with Houston Fire Department, insists he’s no hero.
“We never feel like a hero,” Wyble said. “We just do our job.” He now uses his recording for training.
The I-Team attempted to get a copy of the video two years ago, but the Texas Attorney General ruled that because it was part of an on-going investigation, the fire department didn’t have to release it.
The investigation into that fire has now wrapped up.
While investigators say it started on the roof of the $50 million complex, they were not able to determine an exact cause.