Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Phil Garcia was awakened Sunday night by his teenage son screaming his name – their home filling with smoke and flames.
Xaven Garcia pulled his father outside and they scrambled to put out the fire with a garden hose, but the smoke remained.
Garcia told his son to stay put and he went back inside to look for his daughter, not realizing she was still at work. The father collapsed, unable to breathe, and had to break a window to escape the smoke.
When he made it to the front yard, Xaven was gone.
A neighbor told Garcia his son had run back inside. He suspects he went back to find him, his sister or the two cats he cherished. Soon after, Garcia watched firefighters pull his son from the home.
Xaven Garcia, 17, who was a senior at Valley High School, was pronounced dead Tuesday. His heart, spleen, liver and kidneys are being sent across the country to be used to save lives.
As Xaven’s organs give others a second chance, Garcia grieves the loss of his son: His smile and his tenderness – the son who, Garcia said, always wanted to be a hero.
“What really helps is feeling that parts of him are still alive. And he’s helping people out somewheres else. You know? Because that’s what he wanted to do,” Garcia told the Journal. “He’s going to be saving up to eight people’s lives.”
The fire broke out just before 11 p.m. Sunday at a single-story home in the 1800 block of Zickert NW, according to the release Albuquerque Fire Rescue sent out just after midnight. Firefighters found a person during the search of the home, according to the release, and they were taken to the hospital “with minimal smoke-inhalation injuries.”
Garcia said his son’s body was “basically unscathed.” He didn’t have any burns or scratches and firefighters told him Xaven wasn’t conscious long.
“They think that he died pretty much instantly because the black soot filled his lungs and killed him instantly,” he said. “There were no signs of him struggling or suffering in any way, shape or form.”
AFR did not mention the severity of Xaven Garcia’s condition, or his father, who said he was hospitalized for smoke inhalation, numerous cuts from broken glass and burns, or the two cats that perished.
AFR spokesman Tom Ruiz said the department, which normally details serious injuries related to a fire, is “looking into the matter.” Ruiz did not give a cause of the fire, but said it was accidental.
Garcia, who is staying in an Albuquerque hotel, said it was a space heater in Xaven’s room, too close to the blankets, that started the blaze. The room was a total loss except for one box of his son’s most treasured belongings: a “huge” collection of Lil Homies figures and things passed down from his grandfather.
‘I just lost it’
Phil Garcia said he and his son had fallen asleep in the living room watching the Chiefs steamroll the Raiders on Sunday Night Football. He said he went to his room and Xaven decided to keep sleeping on the couch.
Some time later, Garcia said he awoke in a stupor, having already breathed in smoke, to his son’s screams: “Dad, dad, you need to get out – the house is on fire.”
“I was kind of in a daze, I couldn’t really wake up. So, he literally grabbed me and started pulling me out the house,” he said.
Garcia said that, once outside, they put out the flames with a hose and he worried his daughter was somewhere inside the smoke-filled home.
He said he told his son, “You stay right here. Don’t you dare move,” and ran into the home, but collapsed as he felt his lungs were “starting to freeze up” from the smoke.
“I’m thinking he probably is freaking out, saying, ‘Dad, dad, dad,’ and he probably ran in to go grab me again. And the smoke overtook him,” he said. Garcia said the fire department showed up and stopped him from running back in to look for Xaven.
“When they pulled him out of the fire, I just lost it,” Garcia said. “I was in the middle of the street screaming, trying to get to him.”
He said they kept his son alive hoping for some brain activity. That didn’t happen. After ensuring his organs could be harvested, they pronounced Xaven dead around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
‘A heart of gold’
Garcia said that, a day before the fire, Xaven had grabbed his father’s ID and asked what the heart symbol on it meant. He said he explained what being an organ donor meant; if he died, his organs would be given to someone who needs them.
“He goes, ‘I want to do that. That sounds awesome.’ And that kind of freaked me out because you don’t hear that from a 17-year-old boy,” he said. “I’m like, ‘You know what, that’d be awesome. If you did that, you’d be a hero.’ He goes, ‘Just like you. I want to be a hero, like you.’ ”
Garcia found out his son had already agreed to donate his organs months ago, when he got his learner’s permit. He said, if you knew Xaven, it made sense.
“When he sees somebody that needs what he has, he gives it to him, he won’t even hesitate,” Garcia said. “He has a heart of gold … he just wanted to see the world in a better place.”
One of three siblings, Xaven was a giver who loved animals – particularly his cat “Meow Meow.” Garcia said his son once gave a friend a $300 video game console so they could play together.
He said Xaven loved to skateboard and wanted to be a cook some day, recently making tamales from scratch for the family.
“That’s like a three-day job. And he did it in one day by himself. They came out awesome,” Garcia said.
He said he will rebuild his son’s room from the wreckage and keep it as it was before, in his memory.
“He’s a living hero. You know, he literally saved my life. And I will do whatever it takes to get his name known and what he did in a positive way,” he said. “I want his death to be of meaning, to help people out who need help.”