A woman has died a day after her husband after the elderly couple was pulled from their burning home in Escondido, a relative of the victims told NBC 7 on Wednesday.
Neighbors along the 400 block of W. 11th Avenue heard cries for help from a burning home Tuesday around 5 p.m., witnesses said. Crews from the Escondido Fire Department (EFD) worked quickly to battle the blaze as they pulled the married couple from the home.
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The victims, who family members identified as 87-year-old Roberto Ruiz and 81-year-old Jean Ruiz, were rushed to an area hospital with severe burns and injuries from smoke inhalation. EFD spokesperson Jeff Murdock said the man died of his injuries at the hospital on Tuesday.
Relatives said Jean was hospitalized in critical condition and she, too, succumbed to her injuries.
Lluvia Espinoza, who was selling ice cream with her mother near the home when the fire broke out, was the second person to call 911 to alert authorities of the fire. The couple's neighbor, Joaben Linares, was first to report the emergency after hearing the victims' pleas for safety.
"It was a woman’s voice clear as day," Linares said. "I didn’t hear anything other than 'Please help me.'"
"Never in a million years would I have suspected this is how they would die," said Katrina Fine, a relative of the victims. "Not even close or that the house would be gone."
The Ruiz's were an active couple at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, according to relatives and neighbors. Katrina said her aunt and godmother was the wedding coordinator at St. Mary's for years.
"Very loving and giving and every time it was your birthday she would send you a card and dedicate a mass in your name and light a candle. They were both very devout Catholics," Fine said.
Roberto Ruiz was also described by his family as very friendly and very bubbly.
"For me seeing the house burning like that is devastating as it is understanding what happened," Katrina said. "So many childhood memories."
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Tuesday's deadly blaze was followed by another house fire in Escondido on Wednesday morning. That fire occurred on the 1900 block of Firestone Drive. No injuries were reported in that fire.