81-Year-Old Widower Dies Trying to Rescue Dog from Mich. House Fire: ‘He Didn’t Come Back Out’
An 81-year-old widower died on Saturday after he ran back inside his burning Michigan home to try to save his beloved rescue dog.
John Balkevitch and his dog Lexi died after the fire in Roseville broke out in the morning, according to ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV and The Macomb Daily.
The Roseville Fire Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Neighbor Jackie Chaviz told The Macomb Daily that there was a large boom that caused other residents to leave their homes. Within seconds, the house filled with smoke before bursting into flames.
We heard that sound and John ran outside,” she told the paper. “He must have realized his dog was still in the house, so he went back into get the dog. He didn’t come back out.”
Neighbor Jeremy Skobler told WXYZ-TV that he and others tried to save the man, and Fox affiliate WJBK-TV and The Macomb Daily reported that a DoorDash delivery driver was among the good Samaritans. However, a rescue proved impossible.
“I couldn’t even get into the house, it was so smoke-filled,” Skobler told WXYZ-TV.
Stacie Krause, Balkevitch’s daughter, told WXYZ-TV that the family is a “wreck” following his death.
“It’s one of those [things] you prepare for, your parents passing one day,” she said. “But you don’t prepare for them passing like this.”
According to the report, the home has been reduced to debris. A Christmas tree, some family photos and a memorial plaque honoring his wife, who died in 2020, remain. However, the family had not been able to find her ashes.
It’s unclear what caused the fire at this time. An investigation is ongoing, per WXYZ-TV and The Macomb Daily.