EARLE, Ark. –Tragedy hit the small town of Earle, Arkansas after an early morning fire killed a Vietnam Veteran, who was also a recipient of the Purple Heart.
Friends and family of Hulbert Bonner, Junior said he was a hero to the end.
“He wanted to make sure, ensure everybody’s safety. And you know he put his life on the line to make sure everybody else was safe,” said Damian Bonner, son of fire victim.
Damian Bonner stood tall Friday morning, speaking proudly of his father 69-year old Hulbert Bonner, Junior.
The elder Bonner was killed when fire destroyed his home on Tulip Street in Earle, Arkansas.
The Vietnam Veteran tried to extinguish the fire but first made sure his disabled son and Bonner’s brother escaped.
“And as it got more intense, he told my uncle to grab my little brother and get him out of the house. And he told my uncle he’d be right behind them. And as he went to grab his pants and he got overcome and never came out,” said Damian.
Bonner’s body was found in a bedroom on the North side of the house.
35-year old Daniel Bonner and the victim’s brother were treated for smoke inhalation.
Investigators have not determined the exact cause of the fire, but believe it started in the disabled son’s bedroom.
Firemen got on the scene just after 3:30 a.m., but the house was fully involved.
Friday morning embers were still smoldering as friends and family gathered to remember Bonner, Junior, known to many as “Bud.”
“He was the type of guy that would stand up for you, help you out. You call him in the middle of the night and he would come help you,” said Tony Green, Hulbert’s brother-in-law.
We’re told, at one time, Bonner pastored a small church in Earle but never accepted a salary.
While most family members were too upset to talk on camera, Damian left no doubt about his feelings.
He planned on making sure his disabled brother is well cared for in a way that would make his father proud.
“He raised me to be a man, so I’m going to step up the best way I can and do what I think he would want done,” he said.
Bonner’s body was sent to the Arkansas crime lab to determine his exact cause of death.