Carrying baby from hospital rubble, policeman becomes a tragic hero

Part of building collapses after hospital explosion
ctw lkl valdes mexico hospital update_00003814


    Part of building collapses after hospital explosion


Part of building collapses after hospital explosion 02:27

Story highlights

  • Vera Suarez was in the middle of suiting up for work
  • He rushed to a hospital flattened by an explosion and pulled a baby from the rubble

(CNN)Heroes are often made suddenly, when tragedy strikes out of nowhere. It did Thursday, when a natural gas explosion flattened a maternity hospital in Mexico City.

It was dawn, and Police Officer Mauro Enrique Vera Suarez was in the middle of suiting up for work. The shock wave jolted his station like an earthquake.
    It swung the doors and windows.
    Suarez and his colleagues went outside."They told us there was an explosion," he told CNN affiliate FOROtv.
    Only half equipped, he jumped straight into his squad car. "We left as we were," he said. And rushed to the site marked by broad billows of smoke and dust towering over the city.

    Leaky gas hose

    The hose of a propane-butane truck had burst, while it made a delivery to the Cuajimalpa Maternal Hospital. Combustible gas had hissed out into the neighborhood.
    Residents had already called firefighters to alert them to the leak minutes before the gas ignited, and the hospital had already begun evacuating. But the exposition hit them in the middle of it.
    More than 100 people were still in the building.
    Officer Suarez arrived to find the hospital for newborns and their mothers leveled to crumbled concrete and twisted steel. People stained in blood were screaming for help.

    Under a piece of metal

    He and the other officers went straight into the wreckage looking for injured survivors. He turned over pieces of the collapsed roof to see if victims were under them.
    "I saw a sheet that was moving very slightly," he said. "Picking it up, I saw that the baby was face down with its head and knees in the rubble."
    The baby did not appear to be terribly injured, Suarez told FOROtv.
    "He had small wounds. He had scrapes. What I did was just wrap him up and pick him up and leave running."

    A snap, a tweet

    Holding the baby in his left arm, Suarez signaled with his right hand to colleagues, directing them to go inside to help more injured people.
    "My first feeling was to do the work any human being would do -- to take out the injured," he told CNN. "Everything else you block out. "
    At that moment, someone snapped a photo of him, as he scurried over jumbled pieces of debris.
    Suarez handed the baby to paramedics, grabbed a stretcher and ran back to search for more victims.
    "The only thing on my mind was to do the human thing," he said when asked if he thought about his own children. "At that moment you don't remember if you have family, a mother, a father, children or a wife. You concentrate on helping. I wasn't the only one to go in there. My colleagues also rescued victims."
    A public safety official sent it out via Twitter with the message:
    "'I would like to know what happened with the baby. Our work is to save lives,'" says Mauro after rescuing a baby from the explosion."
    FOROtv asked Suarez about the tweet.
    "Yes, I would like to know that he is ok, the baby," he said, choking up.

    Painful announcement

    In the evening, Mexico City's health secretary Armando Ahued spoke to reporters about the tragedy. A nurse died, he said, as well as two babies. Dozens were injured, about a third of them children.
    Reporters asked him about the newborn in the tweeted photo.
    The baby was one of the two who didn't make it. "It was a baby that had .... a very serious fracture in its head, and unfortunately died," Ahued said.
    "It's very sad news," Suarez told CNNMexico. He has two grown children himself. He sent a message to the baby's parents.
    "I will be with them in their pain."