BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Candle flames dance as dusk falls on the East Side. An American flag waves next to a cross placed on the lawn where now, only charred wood lays. It’s the spot where two men died Friday when a house fire broke out.
Friends are gathering to remember Juan Alberto Montanez Navarro. He is the second victim who died at the Humber Avenue fire.
“We come here today and we’re grieving,” said Sam Lozada, one of Montanez Navarro’s friends. “Just recently he was hanging out at the garage and at my house. It’s just a tragedy.”
Montanez Navarro would have celebrated his 50th birthday today. Instead of his friends being by his side for that milestone birthday, they’re wiping away tears, lighting candles and praying for him.
He grew up in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, moving to Buffalo 10 years ago in search of a better life. The father of five, ages eight to 24, is being remembered as a hard worker, his friends saying he gave all he could to his family.
“We loved him a lot,” said Crystalee Medina, a young girl who was a family friend with him. “We might be friends but we treat him at family.”
While at the vigil, Montanez Navarro’s friends also took time to remember 24-year-old Demetrius Johnson, the victim who lived downstairs in the Humber house. He died after running back into the burning house, saving his 8-year-old daughter.
“We put the flag out there in memory of the guy who was a hero,” said Jose Figueroa, another one of Montanez Navarro’s friends. He saved kids lives and lost his.”
Flags, candles and a cross — tributes marking the place where tragedy happened.
“He’s never going to be forgotten.”