A Kentucky toddler who saved his mother and younger sister from a house fire but who later died in the blaze is now a source of inspiration to prevent future tragedies, the Daily Mail reports.
Whitney Johnson was sleeping on a sofa with the children in 2015 when a space heater exploded.
The smoke detector in their apartment did not activate, but the woman’s 2-year-old son DJ shouted and woke up his mom.
Johnson took DJ’s hand and carried his baby sister toward the apartment’s front door to escape, but as she tried to open the door, she had to briefly let go of DJ and he ran into his bedroom.
Johnson tried to find DJ but could not locate him amid the fire and smoke, and so she was forced to leave him in the burning apartment to save the baby, whose scalp was beginning to melt.
According to the newspaper, Johnson handed the baby to a neighbor and then went back into the apartment to search for her son. But she could not reach him and he died of smoke inhalation.
The distraught mother activated the apartment building’s alarms so that dozens of other residents could escape.
Johnson cried while recalling the horrific tragedy.
“DJ is my hero. If it wasn’t for him yelling for me, we definitely would not be here,” she told the Daily Mail in an interview.
“When I woke up, all I remember is flames everywhere and pitch black smoke. It was like something out of the movies.
“He ran directly to his room and shut his door. He was coughing and yelling for me and I was trying to look for him but couldn’t see him through the black smoke and flames.
“I tried to get myself to him but I couldn’t find him and I tried to open the door but at first I couldn’t.”
Investigators determined that an electrical malfunction in the space heater caused an explosion that ignited the fire in the early morning hours of November 20, 2015.
Johnson has burns on 29 percent of her body and the baby, whose name is Nyla and is now 2 years old, also had significant burns.
They were hospitalized for two months after the fire now have physical and emotional scars. Strangers cruelly refer to Nyla as “baby Freddy Krueger” because of her injuries, while Johnson suffers anxiety.
“People in public say things,” Johnson said. “Little kids will usually act scared of Nyla like she is a monster but adults are the worst.
“She has been called a baby Freddy Krueger and strangers online have told me I should have died in the fire and that it was my fault I didn’t save my son.
“That really bothers me because I am angry at myself for not saving DJ. I’m supposed to be his protector and I wasn’t able to be there.
“I cry when I read through those comments but those people have never been in my shoes. There was absolutely nothing I could have done.”
Johnson said she is working to raise awareness about fire safety and encourages families to formulate safety plans so children know they should run out of their house if there is a fire.
[Feature image: DJ Johnson/GoFundMe]