EASTLAKE, Ohio (WJW) — An elderly Eastlake man and his daughter, who were pulled from their burning apartment early Sunday morning, are hospitalized in critical condition.

The fact that the two victims are alive is a credit to their neighbors and first responders in Eastlake. The story began to unfold just after 1:30 a.m. Sunday, when a witness noticed smoke and flames pouring out of a window in a unit at the Willo-Wood apartments on Vine Street in Eastlake.

Alerted by their neighbor, residents in the complex knew that time was of the essence, because the elderly man, who lives in the apartment with his daughter, is confined to a wheelchair.

One of the neighbors, Leo Rumbutis, told FOX 8, “the smoke was very, very heavy, but I knew there were two people in there and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let somebody die like that, you know I’ll do my best to get them out.”

Using a baseball bat provided by a neighbor, Rumbutis smashed out a window in the burning apartment, reached in and unlocked the front door.

“As soon as I opened up that door, I crawled as far as I possibly could without being overcome with smoke,” he said.

Rumbutis was turned away by the heavy smoke, but decided to try again.

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“When I went back inside the second time, I heard moaning and I told one of the officers I’m not coming back out until I get her,” he said.

But Rumbutis says he was turned away a second time, as were Eastlake police officers. Fortunately, Eastlake firefighters arrived at the scene a short time later, and during a search of the apartment, found the woman overcome by smoke on the floor near the kitchen and her elderly father in his wheelchair in a back bedroom.

The two victims were pulled from the apartment, and were initially taken by life squad to UH Lake West Medical Center.

Eastlake Fire Chief Ted Whittington told FOX 8, “What we surmise is that the female probably discovered the fire, and then was either yelling or knocking on the door to let him know, and then he made his way to the wheelchair and just because of the smoke conditions and the fire conditions, he was unable to get out on his own.”

The two victims were later flown by life flight to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.

“They’re alive, you know it’s like ‘hey it’s God’s power,’ it’s like, ‘I hope they pull through,” said Rumbutis.

After the fire was extinguished, investigators discovered that the smoke detector inside the apartment had been disconnected.

Rumbutis says what happened at the apartment complex early Sunday morning demonstrates why everyone needs to make sure their smoke alarms are working.

“Is it worth you grandkids life, or your children’s, your life?” he asked. “If you want to die like that, I don’t think so.”

Fire investigators say it appears the blaze started in the front bedroom of the apartment, but they have not been able to pinpoint an exact cause.