3-Year-Old Runs Back Into House Fire After Dad Rescued Him From the Flames

One family is mourning the loss of a toddler after surviving a fire. The 3-year-old had been rescued by his father from their burning home only to be found later back inside, believed dead from smoke inhalation.


The Thomas family's house caught fire during a power outage when a lit candle tipped over and set a sofa aflame. Father Terry grabbed his son Layden and carried him out, and left him on the porch to rescue his wife and his other two children, a 5-year-old and an infant. That's when Layden went missing. A witness says neighbors were trying to help the family find the boy.

Layden was later discovered under a bed. Investigators believe he must have followed his dad back inside the house.

"It's unimaginable," Thomas told KDKA about the loss of his son. "I did my best. I got him to safety."

Mother Brittany Smith described the chaotic scene to WTAE.

I was outside with my newborn baby and my oldest daughter, and she was running across to the neighbor's house, and Layden was right by my feet, and I'm trying to call the police while I take care of them, and I just glanced away for a second and he ran back in the house.

You can imagine what that must have been like, especially at night. And those of us with kids all know that 3-year-olds don't always recognize a dangerous situation. Layden was no doubt terrified and maybe also confused about why his father was leaving him in this disorienting and scary moment. Why wouldn't he try to follow Dad back inside?

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It must have been confusing for the parents, too, with the smoke and the panic and three small children to keep track of. It's a rare person who can summon a calm, laser-like focus during a crisis. More often our adrenaline pushes us to move quickly, but also causes us to panic. 

I feel for these parents, who must feel horrible to have lost their child, especially after they thought Layden had been brought to safety. It would be hard not to spend the rest of your life replaying the events of the night in your mind and wishing desperately that you could do it all again.

But the family has more to worry about on top of the loss of their son. They did not have insurance, and so they are now homeless and have only the clothes on their back and what few undamaged items remain in their home.