ECTOR COUNTY, TX (CBS7) -- The smell of smoke woke up an Ector County couple just after midnight on New Year's Day. According to a Facebook post by Jose Tarango, the wife's brother, Aaron McGruder tried to get out of their bedroom by throwing a blanket over his wife, Yezzmin Taranjo.
Jose Tarango said in his post that when they opened the door, flames engulfed them both. The smoke was so bad they got separated. McGruder made it out of the house, but Yezzmin was still somewhere inside.
Even though he was badly burned, he went back into the house to try and find her, according to Tarango. He couldn't and came back out and collapsed in the yard.
Tarango says by that time, his father and brothers were at the house and were able to go in and save Yezzmin. He says McGruder was burned over 100 percent of his body and both had second and third-degree burns.
Both were taken to University Medical Center in Lubbock where McGruder died around noon while his wife was in surgery.
The Ector County Sheriff's Office tells CBS7 that the exact cause of the fire is still being determined, but that the home was a total loss.
It happened on 591 East Calcutta, south of South Loop 338, East of Hwy 385.
A GoFundMe account has been set up for Yezzmin and the family.
Aaron McGruder and Yezzmin Tarango were high school sweethearts.
Tarango’s brother, Jose Tarango, spoke to CBS7 about the fire and his brother-in-law.
“He fit right into the family, he was very happy,” he said.
They had been together five years and at just 21 years old, experienced their home burning before their eyes.
“As soon as he had opened the door she said it was like an explosion going off. They were both covered in flames. He threw her to the ground she hit the ground and he threw himself on top of her and he covered her with the blankets that were on the bed,” he said.
The couple fled, but became separated in the smoke. When McGruder realized Tarango didn’t make it out, he went back in not once, but twice, until collapsing in the front yard.
“My aunts said he was saying please just go back inside the house, Yezzmin is still in there. I tried going back in there, but I can’t. Of course, he was burnt from head to toe,” he said.
The Tarango’s drove to the couple’s home. Tarango’s father and brothers began breaking windows and trying to save Yezzmin Tarango. Yezzmin Tarango used a vase to break the window, and escaped.
“I know without him my sister wouldn’t be here. He woke my sister up, he tried getting her out, he threw her down. If not, she would have been engulfed in flames too. I admire what he did for her. He went back twice to get her,” he said.
They were taken to the hospital where McGruder passed away on Wednesday. The Tarango’s said his nature and spirit will never be forgotten.
“Aaron was a very selfless person. No matter who you were, or how you were, he would see that you were down and stop and talk to you. He cared about you had a genuine heart of gold,” he said.
Jose Tarango said McGruder is a hero, and his bravery saved his sister’s life.
“So leadership is, I believe, something that gets used very loosely. But I believe that his selfless acts and his perseverance to go back into the fire, I mean, if you look back at the house the beams are melted, the house is gone. Only God knows what he had went through. But just going through that pain just to make sure my sister was taken care of, he gave the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.