Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Rescuing the rescuer

Man faces long recovery from burn wounds after trying to save brother’s dog


The four Torchio brothers were together, as they often are, hiking and exploring in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. Among them, they own five dogs that they call “the pack.” On the April 1 trip, the Erie natives were accompanie­d by a Brittany named Remnar and George, a beagle.

When Remnar fell into a geothermal hot spring boiling from the earth, Brent Torchio, 23, “instantly and without regard for his own safety, jumped in to save his friend’s life,” Christian Torchio, 33, said in a phone interview.

The dog was completely submerged. Brent, a recent Penn State University graduate, went waist-deep into water that his brothers think was at least 170 degrees. Philip Torchio, 30, went into the water up to his shins.

“Brent shoved the dog out of the water to us,” Christian said. Then he, Philip and Andrew, 32, who is Remnar’s owner, pulled their younger brother out of the water. What came next was a horrific 2½-hour drive through the northern Nevada desert to get medical care.

Brent Torchio has second- and third-degree burns on more than 20 percent of his body. Remnar was much worse, scalded all over her body. Her eyes were burned and her nose was burned off.

“We think Remnar swallowed the boiling water,” Christian said.

The dog was treated by an emergency veterinari­an in Lakeview, Ore., and then by another vet in Bend, Ore.

“We got her home. She made it through the night,” he said, but she died at 1:30 p.m. the next day. “We think her kidneys shut down.”

“She was with her family and in comfort when she passed. ... She was able to say goodbye before being peacefully laid to rest under her favorite shaded tree,” it says in the tribute written by the three older brothers.

Brent was treated at Lake District Hospital in Lakeview, then transferre­d to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, the town where the three oldest brothers live and work. Brent, a graduate student, had been visiting them on spring break.

Due to the severity of his injuries, Brent was transporte­d to the Legacy Oregon Burn Center in Portland. He faces skin grafts and a long recovery that will cause him to miss his thirdquart­er classes at Life West Chiropract­ic College in Hayward, Calif.

Brent’s injuries “could have been worse,” Christian said. He has no burns on his face, hands or the bottoms of his feet, which means he is able to walk.

He had skin grafted onto his ankles, and on April 18 he was released from the burn center. He is living with Andrew and his family but will be making frequent trips for treatment at the Portland burn center.

Brent has health insurance, but it’s not clear if his medical costs will exceed what insurance will pay for. Money raised on the a GoFundMe page will also be used to cover Brent’s rent at his San Francisco Bay-area apartment and to cover expenses for family members who have been at his side throughout his recovery.

In 15 days, 448 people have donated $23,226 at www.gofundme.com/brents-heroismbur­n

“This is incredible, donations from complete strangers,” Christian marveled. “I’m also getting checks in the mail.”

Christian said he and his brothers appreciate the emotional and financial support they are getting because their little brother is a hero.

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