A Logan Heights woman died after being on life support for days after her family home caught fire over the weekend, which also killed her parents and injured two of her grown siblings, according to the San Diego Police Department.
Just before 4:30 a.m. on Oct. 13, a devastating blaze tore through the Romero family’s home on Clay Avenue. All six family members were home when the fire began.
Iris “Krystal” Romero, 21, used her body as a shield to protect her brother, Angel Romero, 17, from being burned, according to family member Tania Flores. She and her three siblings were transported to a hospital.
Iris Romero became brain dead and then died Wednesday night, SDPD said.
Her parents, Jose Antonio Romero, 44, and Nicolasa Mayo, 46, also died from their injuries suffered from the house fire.
Angel Romero and his sister, Wendy Romero, 24, remain in the hospital, as of Thursday afternoon.
The couple’s oldest child, Wilber Romero, 26, has since been released from the hospital. Police said Wilber Romero was unhurt from the house fire.
SDPD announced Thursday that its Homicide Unit began investigating the blaze “out of an abundance of caution.”
Jamie Felix, a long-time family friend who lives next door, said he couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the flames pouring from the Romero family's home.
"I thought it was like a scary movie. I thought it was a nightmare, honestly. I’m just like, 'This is not real. This is not really happening,'" Felix said.
Felix said that Wilber Romero had been sleeping outside when the fire began, so he was able to scream for help. His screams alerted neighbors as to what was happening at the house early Sunday.
The family lives in a close-knit neighborhood, according to Felix, and several neighbors rushed to temper flames. One neighbor said he tried to enter the burning house to help the family, but the flames were too intense.
Neighbor Jose Barriento explained to Telemundo 20 how he used a rock to free some of the family members.
"There was a person screaming at the window, screaming to help him,” Barriento said. "I ran and threw a large stone at the door. It broke, and another one person came to open it."
The fire was knocked down about a half-hour later.
On Tuesday, a vigil was held at the Greater Antioch Church of God in Christ, which is located next door to the Romero home. The Romero family was not part of the congregation, but the tragedy compelled parishioners and loved ones to pray there in their memory.
Wilber Romero spoke at the vigil and thanked them for their thoughts and prayers.
He shared a warm embrace with good Samaritan Byron Doxey who pulled Iris Romero out of the home.
"I reached out, and I grabbed her and yanked her out as hard as I could," Doxey said. "I know the door hurt but I had to get her out."
Fire investigators aren't sure how the fire started but arson has been ruled out. Family members verified there were no working smoke alarms in the house.
Relatives said the financial burden of the surgeries, funeral expenses, and future living costs without their parents will be tough. A GoFundMe page was created to help them.
The Romero family is originally from De Guerrero, Mexico. They had lived in San Diego for the past 15 years, relatives told NBC 7.