By Mike Dougherty, Anita Oh
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBS) — A Montgomery County family is mourning the loss of young boy who was killed in a fire when he ran back inside a burning home to rescue his father.READ MORE: Philadelphia Commerce Director Michael Rashid Resigns After He Reportedly Made Anti-Semitic Remarks, Verbally Abused His Staff
The two-alarm blaze broke out shortly before 9 a.m. Friday in the 1000 block of Markley Street in Norristown.
The family of 12-year-old Sanford Harling III tells CBS Philly that the boy escaped the fire safely, but when he didn’t see his dad outside, he went back inside the burning home in an attempt to rescue his father who had recently undergone surgery. Tragically, the family says, Sanford never made it back out.
“That’s the kind of guy he was,” said Sanford’s grandfather, Kenneth Peterson. ” Young, friendly, athletic. He loved his family.”
Sanford’s dad had already made it out alive by jumping from a second floor window. He was hospitalized with a back and hip injuries. Four other family members escaped the blaze safely.
Peterson said the world lost a brave boy with a bright future.
“He participated in all kinds of activities around here,” he said. “(He) did a lot of community work. (He) Always helped out me, his grandfather, and he helped us all out.”READ MORE: Temple University Parents To Rally Over Safety After Samuel Collington's Death
Sanford, also known by the nickname “Man-Man,” played offensive and defensive lineman, and fullback for the Norristown Youth Eagles football team. But he now has another badge of honor, a young hero, remembered and grieved by an entire community.
“Who would let him run back in? Why?” asked Sanford’s coach Matt Booker. “But when I think about it, I can’t imagine anyone stopping him from running back in. It hurts, but that’s just who he was. That’s the love he had for his dad.”
Booker said “Man-Man” wore his number 38 jersey proudly.
“(He was) one of the most joyful kids on the team,” Booker said. “He wasn’t one of those kids with God-given ability, speed, strength. He worked his tail off to get on the field and stay on the field.”
Crews returned to the scene of the fire Saturday to board up the charred remains of the home where someone left behind a stuffed animal and a sign nearby that read “Rest in peace Sanford, you are loved and will be missed.” It’s just one way the community is now rallying around the Harling family as they prepare to make funeral arrangements for their son.MORE NEWS: A Century In The Making: Philadelphia Resident Rose DiLemmo Celebrates 100th Birthday
And as the family focuses on laying their little hero to rest, a GoFundMe page has been set up to help them with the cost.