NEW YORK — Bronx teen Lucas Silverio and 3-year-old Yasleen McDonald, strangers in their short lives, are together in eternal heartbreak.

The courageous Silverio succumbed Wednesday to massive injuries suffered in his daring but ultimately deadly attempt to rescue a terrified 3-year-old Yasleen from a raging Bronx high-rise building fire early Sunday, relatives and police sources said. Little Yasleen had passed away two days earlier.

“My heart is heavy for both my daughter and the kid who saved her,” said Yasleen’s mom, Jasmine Moreno, to The New York Daily News. “He’s a hero. He saved my daughter without even … . my condolences. I’m going to keep them in my prayers.”

The youthful rescuer raced into the choking smoke and flames, bolting up to the 14th floor where Yasleen became separated from Moreno — whose shrieks steered Silverio to the lost little girl. Silverio plucked the small child from the darkness and lugged her back down the stairs to waiting firefighters and EMTs, officials said.

But Yasleen, suffering from smoke inhalation and burns over 80% of her tiny body, died one day later at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center. And the valiant Silverio, who arrived naked, burned and disoriented on the ground floor after running the fiery gauntlet, followed within 48 hours.

“I was shocked that a 19-year-old would go into the fire,” said Yasleen’s great uncle Willie Colon, 52, of the Bronx. “That guy is going to be in my heart forever.”

Moreno intends to contact Silverio’s family as relatives of both families braced for unexpected funerals in the next two difficult days.

When mother and daughter tripped and became separated in the dense smoke, Silverio heard Jasmine screaming for her lost child, the sources said. Though he was already helping his grandmother navigate her way to safety, Silverio ran back up the stairs and grabbed the little girl — just as both were scalded by a blistering blast of heat and fire, according to the sources.

Burned but undaunted, Silverio carried the mortally injured child to safety.

“He had a beautiful spirit and a heart of gold,” said Jesse Alvarez, a second cousin of the intrepid Silverio. “He had a heart the size of this planet. I want New Yorkers to take away that a hero died, and that hero’s name was Lucas Silverio.”

Silverio, like the little girl, suffered burns over 80% of his body during his desperate rescue effort. He fought valiantly until finally passing away on Wednesday.

Moreno declined to discuss the details of the horrifying night. She was staying at a friend’s apartment house with Yasleen when the fire erupted.

Silverio, the son of a doctor, was studying to become a physical therapist. His mother was the first to notice the fire, and she shouted at him in the shower to turn off the water and get out of their apartment.

It was then, as he and a cousin helped their grandmother get down the stairs, that Silverio heard the screams from the stairwell above.

“Lucas says, ‘Bro, take grandma downstairs, I’m going to check on the girl,’” recalled Alvarez.

Colon remembered his great-niece Yasleen as a precious and precocious young girl.

“She was a sweetheart,” he said. “A real sweet little girl, smart girl. She didn’t have a chance to live. Everybody loved her.”

“She was a joyous, happy, bubbling little 3-year-old,” said neighbor Bridget Stewart about Yasleen. “For her short life, she touched many hearts. She is truly going to be missed by this community.”

The cause of the fire, though still under investigation, does not appear to be suspicious. The blaze started about one block from the Bronx Zoo.

Residents described a nightmarish scene of blinding smoke, heat and fire, with firefighters unable to bring the flames under control for two hours.

Stewart was crushed to learn that the young man who tried so desperately to save Yasleen had instead joined her in death.

“Oh my God, oh my God,” said Stewart, 57. “He was very courageous … He had the heart to go back to find her, to bring her to safety.”

Silverio did succeed in helping to save his grandmother, Nidia Torres, who was hospitalized to treat burns on her arms and back.

“She doesn’t know what’s going on. We haven’t told her because it will only make her worse," said her stepdaughter Eira Mendoza.


(Elizabeth Keough and Kerry Burke contributed to this report)


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