A grandfather and Purple Heart recipient who had a close bond with his 3-year-old granddaughter made the ultimate sacrifice to save her life after a possible gas leak caused their Oklahoma home to explode.
Don Osteen, 69, died from his injuries on Monday after rescuing his granddaughter, Paetyn, when their home in Maud exploded on Sept. 19 while they were having lunch, his son told NBC affiliate KFOR.
"He wasn't worried about himself at all. I'll leave it at that, but 'save her' was the message he was trying to get across, and he did exactly that," Brendon Osteen, his son and Paetyn's father, told KFOR.
Don Osteen was a longtime educator, Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient, his family said.
He suffered broken ribs, a collapsed lung and extensive burns, yet still carried Paetyn a quarter of a mile from the fire to get help, his son said. Paetyn suffered burns on 30% of her body, officials told KFOR.
"He just got out of the house and headed straight to where he knew help was," Brendon Osteen said. "He tried to get in his truck and his keys were melted to him. His phone was exploded in his pocket."
The elder Osteen was standing about 15 to 30 feet away from the front door and lighting a candle when the explosion occurred, his son said.
Don Osteen's wife was the first to find him in a front pasture on the family's property, with Paetyn nearby after he put her in the shade.
The two were then helicoptered to Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City.
Osteen called his father a hero in a touching tribute on Facebook following his death.
"He knew that he did his job by saving the life of his Boo Boo Chicken," he wrote. "He loved my daughter beyond unconditionally. And he gave it all for her to live."
Don Osteen's daughter-in-law, Jamie Moore, wrote Tuesday on a fundraising page for the family's medical expenses that he "will forever be our hero and Paetyn's guardian angel."
She added that Paetyn is still in the pediatric intensive care unit but is "doing well and healing much better than we anticipated" thanks to her grandfather's final heroic act.
"He was so brave and his sacrifice of love to save his grandbaby will always be a part of his heroic legacy that he leaves behind," she wrote.