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Uncle who dropped boy to save him: 'It was terrible'

  • Story Highlights
  • Uncle says he grabbed his nephew from his mom and dad, dropped him to cop
  • "It was terrible. I just had to make a decision"
  • Boy survived but his 2-year-old brother was killed in fire, along with eight others
  • The boy's father injured, but survived
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By Frederik Pleitgen
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LUDWIGSHAFEN, Germany (CNN) -- Kamil Kaplan faced a horrifying decision as flames engulfed his apartment building: Does he drop his 9-month-old nephew four stories to a policeman or hope the baby boy survives the suffocating smoke?

Kaplan chose to drop the boy, Onur Celar -- a dramatic life-saving moment captured in photographs seen around the world.

"It was terrible. I just had to make a decision," he told CNN.

The smoke and flames were becoming unbearable. It was now or never. Video Watch Kaplan describe the scene »

"I took the child from my sister, the mother," he said. "She and the father were screaming: 'Don't do it! Don't do it!' But I didn't listen."

He added, "I looked into the eyes of the policeman below, and I knew I could trust him."

The police officer caught the baby, and he is now doing well. But the parents are still grieving because Onur's 2-year-old brother, Ilyas, was killed in the blaze -- one of nine people to have died in the fire that has shocked this German town. Five of the dead are children, officials said. Video Watch horrifying images of the burning building »

Onur's father was also badly injured in the fire and remains hospitalized.

The cause of the fire is not immediately known, but investigators have not ruled out arson. Wednesday, investigators were able to enter the burned out building for the first time since Sunday's fire.

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The four-story apartment building in Ludwigshafen is home to several Turkish immigrant families, and was the target of a Molotov cocktail attack two years ago, police said.

The building went up in flames while revelers were celebrating Carnival. The blaze quickly spread, eating up a wooden staircase that soon gave way. Photo See photos of baby thrown to safety »

Kaplan said he and his daughter were rescued by firefighters at the last second. He's just glad the policeman caught his nephew -- otherwise the family would be dealing with even more tragedy.


"If the cop wouldn't have been standing down there," he said. "I would have just taken the boy and jumped down with him in my arms to save him."

Ludwigshafen is a port city on the west bank of the Rhine River. It is noted for its large chemical industry and is a gateway to the wine-growing region of the Rhine. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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