Fire Victim Loses Life's Work

Lily Bandak, who lives with Multiple Sclerosis, had to be carried out from the burning home with the help of neighbors and a San Diego police officer

By Nicole Gonzales and R. Stickney
|  Wednesday, Mar 28, 2012  |  Updated 7:38 AM PDT
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Lily Bandok, a renowned photographer pulled from a burning home in San Carlos early Tuesday, lost years of her work along with a specialized vehicle.  NBC 7's Nicole Gonzales reports.

Lily Bandok, a renowned photographer pulled from a burning home in San Carlos early Tuesday, lost years of her work along with a specialized vehicle. NBC 7's Nicole Gonzales reports.

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A paralyzed woman and renowned photographer pulled from a burning home in San Carlos early Tuesday lost years of her work along with a specialized vehicle.

Lily Bandak kept negatives and images from her freelance work with Newsweek in the garage of her home on Jackson Drive.

An overloaded eletrical outlet sparked a fire that forced Bandak and three others to evacuate around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday and destroyed the contents of the garage along with a van that was outfitted for her specialized wheelchair.

“I can't believe it. That's all my life's work. All my negatives are gone,” Bandak said Tuesday night.

All that's left are crispy photos documenting photo shoots with, among others, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the King and Queen of Jordan.

Bandak, who lives with Multiple Sclerosis, had to be carried out from the burning home with the help of neighbors and a San Diego police officer.

Neighbor Gary Cameron and his father live across the street. They didn’t know the people living inside the home but that didn’t matter he said.

“I ran to help as quick as I could. And did everything I could to make sure she got out okay,” he said.

“We lifted her off the bed, then to the window, out the window and onto a table in the back yard,” Cameron said.

“I fell on the floor, but they kept going. And they got me out. I've never seen such great neighbors,” Bandak said.

Now, as she realizes the loss suffered in the fire, Bandak told NBCSanDiego her spirit is broken.

“It's terrible to say, but I didn't care anymore. I went through so much in this life. I didn't even want them to rescue me,” Bandak said.

“I feel homeless. My pictures, my negatives are all gone. I really don't have a place to stay,” she said.

Lily Bandak lives in the home with her sister Diana and her mother who lives with Alzheimer's. A cousin sleeping in the home awoke everyone to the flames. Diana said she called 911 but could not leave the bedside of her sister.

Diana Bandak said her neighborhood is "the most fantastic neighborhood I've ever lived in."

The San Diego chapter of the American Red Cross will help the family find lodging.

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