Make us your home page
Instagram

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 azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

S

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

Loading...
  1. Review: Arcade Fire open hearts, play with passion at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa

    Blogs

    Gloves off, hearts open and disco balls glittering, Arcade Fire scaled the stage for the first time ever in Tampa, pouncing and flailing and performing with all the passion that’s made them one of the world’s most celebrated rock bands this century.

    Arcade Fire performed at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa on Sept. 22, 2017.
  2. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The wait felt like forever for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, having gone 10 months without playing in a game.

    A scramble in front of the Lightning goal has Matthew Peca, far left, and Erik Cernak, middle, helping out goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy during the third period of a 3-1 win against the Predators. Vasilevskiy, who made 29 saves, was “exceptional,” coach Jon Cooper says.
  3. Rays journal: Alex Cobb may have pitched last game in Rays uniform (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — RHP Alex Cobb pitched well enough to lead the Rays to an 8-3 win over the Orioles on Friday.

    Wilson Ramos gives thanks after hitting a grand slam during the second inning, putting the Rays up 4-0.
  4. Steven Souza Jr. vindicating big trade for Rays

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There was a time when the three-team, 11-player transaction the Rays orchestrated to get Steven Souza Jr. from the Nationals looked liked a bad deal.

    The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. has 30 home runs this season while improving his defense and baserunning but wants to improve on his .236 batting average.
  5. Fennelly: Lightning's Manon Rheaume made history 25 years ago Saturday

    Lightning Strikes

    The name is part of Lightning history, hockey history, sports history.

    Lightning goalie Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game 25 years ago today.