Damian Richardson, a teenager who rushed into a burning East Waco house two years ago to save his neighbor’s life, died in a car crash in Dallas last weekend.
Friends and family said the 19-year-old’s death is a loss for anyone who ever knew him and for anyone who has lost the chance to meet him.
“There are no words for it,” said Dawn Polk, Richardson’s mother. “He helped everybody. He had a good heart and he was good on the outside and the inside.”
Richardson, a 2019 Waco High School graduate, died Sunday in Dallas, where he moved after graduation last year, Polk said. When his neighbor’s house caught fire in June 2018, he stepped outside and heard others say the 69-year-old man who lived there was still inside. Richardson rushed into the burning building, woke his sleeping neighbor and helped him get out safely.
“It was truly a blessing to have a son like him,” Polk said. “He saved lives and dogs and it is just a shame that no one could save him.”
Former Waco Fire Chief Bobby Tatum, who honored Richardson for his actions shortly after the fire in 2018, said he was “absolutely shocked” when he heard about Richardson’s death.
“He was a man with a true servant’s attitude. He had so much promise in his life, and I knew he had his whole life in front of him to accomplish so many things,” Tatum said. “When so many other people would have been running away from a house fire, he was running in to save someone. That is pretty incredible.”
Richardson was riding in the front passenger seat of a Dodge Charger on Sunday in Dallas when the driver, his 21-year-old friend, hit a Ford F-150 while trying to change lanes and traveling at a high rate of speed, according to the police report. The initial collision led the Dodge to hit a wooden utility pole, causing significant damage to the vehicle and ejecting all three people inside: Richardson, the driver and a 19-year-old woman who was in the back seat, police reported.
Richardson was killed, the other passenger in the Dodge was hospitalized, and the others involved in the crash suffered minor injuries, the report states. Charges are possible for the driver of the Dodge, according to police.
Longtime friend Tae Cortez, 18, helped Richardson’s family organize a memorial ceremony that will start at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Waco High School. She said Richardson had moved to Dallas after graduating and planned to wait until she graduated this year to help her pursue her dreams of playing professional basketball.
“What I am going to miss the most is us always being on the phone, because we would be on the phone, if it wasn’t every day, we wouldn’t let two days pass without talking to each other,” Cortez said. “I know he is watching over me, but there is definitely something missing now.”