CHICAGO (CBS) — When his apartment filled with smoke, 8-year-old Monty Spencer quickly went to the window to shout for help. Moments later, he jumped four stories to safety, escaping a blaze that killed two neighbor children in Gary, Indiana, on Sunday.
Monty was watching TV in his mother’s room when the fire started in an apartment next door at a four-story apartment building near Lake and Forest around 11:45 a.m. Sunday
“I was laying on the bed. When I came out my momma’s room, it was a lot of black smoke,” he said.
Monty reacted quickly to the smoke.
“That’s when I tried to go out the door, and it was super black. I couldn’t see nothing. That’s when I put my head out the window, and I called for help,” he said.
Cell phone video from a witness shows flames shooting from the window of the apartment next door, where two other children lost their lives.
As Monty screamed for help, neighbors below banded together and held up a blanket to catch him.
“We grabbed this cover, and we told him to just jump, and they told him 1, 2, 3, 4, and he jumped,” neighbor Earl Stiff said. “It was like 20 people holding the blanket.”
“It was hard, because we don’t have credentials for this, but we had to do what we had to do,” neighbor Tevin Thompson said.
As the neighbors got the blanket ready to catch Monty, his mother and aunt shouted for him to jump.
“His mom was down there crying her eyes out, because we were scared for him to jump; but at the same time, we thought this was the only way he was going to get out,” said his aunt, Nicola Simmons.
Monty’s uncle, Paul Reedus Sr., said he never could have made the four-story jump his nephew did.
“I think he’s a hero,” Reedus said. “I looked way up there. I said, ‘He jumped from up there?’ I said, ‘Oh my God, what a brave little boy.’”
Monty’s mother got seven of her eight children out of the apartment before she realized her 8-year-old son was missing.
While Monty survived, two children in the apartment next door died in the blaze: 2-year-old Kailani Gober and her 4-year-old brother, Kristopher Gober. It was unclear where their parents were at the time of the fire.
Christopher Hardin came to the Gary apartment complex where his son died.
“It’s almost surreal,” he said. “Being my only son, being so close to him. I’m at a loss for words.”
It took firefighters about four hours to extinguish the blaze.
The cause of the fire was under investigation, but fire officials said they are looking into the possibility one of the children who died might have been cooking when the fire started.
The apartment building stood empty Monday morning; more than 100 residents were displaced by the fire, but work crews were already making repairs to get them back home as soon as possible.