Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

In Tampa fire, man makes a lifesaving catch

TAMPA — Ryan Loflin's heart is still pounding. He still hears the dying screams of the woman next door, still sees the toddler's face as she swung like a pendulum, dangling over his head and outside a second-story window. On the ground, Loflin braced himself, hands outstretched. The man holding the little girl had lost his grip, but grabbed her by the leg. And there she was, 16-month-old niece Tiyana Samuel, staring at him. She was smiling.

Both of the most pivotal moments in 25-year-old Loflin's life involve him cradling a baby girl.

Two years ago in a hospital in northern Florida, when Loflin held newborn daughter Raelyn for the first time, something changed inside him.

The man who had been arrested for drug possession, who was on probation, hadn't planned to be a father.

But here she was, perfect. I made that, he thought.

He promised her he would "man up" and be responsible, like his own father.

Raelyn lived with her mother in Tampa while Loflin lived in Pasco County. He recently moved into his sister's South Tampa apartment to be closer to his daughter.

Last weekend was the first the toddler had spent at the apartment. They danced and sang. They spent Saturday at the beach. Then, they nodded off.

Loflin was startled from sleep about 1 a.m. Sunday, when the woman next door screamed and banged on the wall.

The rest happened fast.

After a futile attempt at putting out the fire with sink water, Loflin grabbed his daughter, ran through the flames and kicked through the door. Part of the ceiling collapsed behind him.

Outside, cradling his daughter, he saw the woman next door in the window. She was screaming, begging for help.

"Jump!" he shouted.

She wouldn't.

Loflin shielded his daughter's face, hoping Raelyn wouldn't remember.

Then he realized his sister, her baby and a friend were still in the apartment. He screamed. They didn't answer.

Putting Raelyn down, he ran to the door, but found it blocked by flames. As the fire poured out the roof, he saw movement from his sister's bedroom window.

Standing below the window with his daughter crying at his feet, Loflin reached up and caught his niece.

• • •

On Monday, Tampa Fire officials released the name of the woman who died. Kathryn Alm was 48 years old. She left behind a daughter, a sister, three brothers, a stepfather and a mother.

Loflin credits Alm for waking his family when no smoke alarm did. Her screams saved five people, he said. His sister and her friend escaped through the window after saving his niece, all because Alm gave them time.

"If she wasn't here, we would've died," he said.

Alm's 26-year-old daughter, Jessica, said she was proud of her mother for that.

"I'm so happy that all of them got out safely. I wish she could have, too," she said.

Jessica Alm said her mother lived alone and felt like she had all she needed. She had a job as a manager at Circle K and a bunch of friends, who happened to be cops. She called one of them "Copsicle."

"She had a sense of humor like nobody I've ever known," the daughter said. "It was really a dry kind of wit."

Kathryn Alm experienced an unimaginable loss in 2001, when her teenage son, Tony, died in a car crash.

She stayed close to her daughter. They went shopping every weekend. Today, Jessica will begin planning her mother's funeral.

Loflin can't imagine how Alm's family feels. His mind keeps racing to the fire. What if he had awakened sooner? If he had a fire extinguisher? If he had acted faster?

Officials are still working to determine what caused the fire.

"To anybody who is in a fire in their home, just run," Loflin said. "Don't try to get anything. Just get your family."

• • •

Loflin's heart is still pounding so hard that doctors kept him in a hospital bed Monday.

The fire could have aggravated a previous condition. Or the beat could have accelerated from smoke inhalation and stress.

Either way, his heart has gotten no rest.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Alexandra Zayas can be reached at or (813) 226-3354.


To help

A relief fund has been established for Ryan Loflin, his sister, Tiffany, and her baby, who lost everything in the Sunday fire at the apartments under Potbellies Family Restaurant in South Tampa. To give, call the Navy Federal Credit Union toll-free at 1-888-842-6328. The account is set up as the "Loflin Fire Fund."

In Tampa fire, man makes a lifesaving catch 03/23/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 24, 2009 12:04am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band dies at age 69

    Music & Concerts

    SAVANNAH, Ga. — Music legend Gregg Allman, whose bluesy vocals and soulful touch on the Hammond B-3 organ helped propel the Allman Brothers Band to superstardom and spawn Southern rock, died Saturday, a publicist said. He was 69.

    This Oct. 13, 2011 file photo shows Gregg Allman performs at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville, Tenn. On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a publicist said the musician, the singer for The Allman Brothers Band, has died. (AP Photo/Joe Howell, File)
  2. Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, a former senator, dies at 85


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jim Bunning, a former Hall of Fame pitcher who went on to serve in Congress, has died. He was 85.

    In this June 21, 1964 file photo, Jim Bunning of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches a perfect game against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in New York.  The Phillies beat the Mets, 6-0.  Bunning retired all 27 batters who faced him in the first game of a doubleheader to become the first pitcher in 42 years with a perfect game in regular season play.   (AP Photo/File)
  3. Trump to decide next week whether to quit Paris climate agreement


    TAORMINA, Italy —President Donald Trump declined to endorse the Paris climate accords on Saturday, saying he would decide in the coming days whether the United States would pull out of the 195-nation agreement.

    President Donald Trump, right, arrives to a G7 session with outreach countries in Taormina, Italy, on Saturday. Climate and trade were sticking points at the two-day summit in Taormina, Sicily. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)
  4. Suspect arrested in fatal shooting of Virginia special agent


    RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia State Police special agent died Saturday after being shot by a man sitting in a car in Richmond, police said. The shooting suspect fled on foot, sparking an overnight manhunt that ended with the man's arrest about an hour after the agent's death.

    This image provided by the Virginia State Police shows law enforcement investigating the scene of a shooting early Saturday in Richmond, Va.   Special Agent Michael T. Walter, a Virginia State Police special agent died Saturday after being shot by a man sitting in a car in Richmond, police said. The shooting suspect fled on foot, sparking an overnight manhunt that ended with the man's arrest about an hour after the agent's death. Virginia State Police said in an emailed statement that Travis A. Ball of Richmond is being held without bond on charges that include malicious wounding and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. (Virginia State Police via AP)
  5. Mayor Rick Kriseman says St. Petersburg mayoral election is about going forward, not back


    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman christened his campaign office Friday evening by telling his supporters that the mayoral election was about moving forward, not backward.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman says mayoral election is about inclusiveness Friday at campaign office rally