ALLERTON — A Bronx man who loved animals fell to his death early Monday while trying to rescue a cat from a tree, police and relatives of the man said.
Marcial Rios, 53, was coming home from his job collecting scrap metal when he saw a neighborhood cat stuck in a tree at Allerton Avenue and Bronx Park East about 3 a.m., police and Rios's niece, Amyeli Castro, said. Rios scaled the tree but slipped when the cat eluded him, Castro said.
"It's just a tragedy," a tearful Castro told DNAinfo.com New York through an interpreter. "I don't think any of us expected him to go like this."
Rios's family said they did not own a cat, and they were unsure whose feline Castro tried to save.
But Castro said Rios loved animals and it was characteristic of him to help someone he didn't know.
"I'm not surprised," Castro said. "He lived with his niece's children who he treated like his own, I think maybe because he never had that. He loved everybody."
Neighbors and relatives said Castro lived in a nearby apartment on Morris Avenue near 191st Street for 20 years after emigrating from Mexico. He lived with his two nieces and their children.
Rios's fall was first reported by the Daily News.
Mildred Rodriguez, 61, who has lived in the building since before Rios moved in, said Rios was "the best kind of neighbor you could ask for."
"Once when the super went on vacation, [Rios] swept and mopped all the hallways, took out the garbage, did it all," Rodriguez said. "That's just what he was like. His heart was solid gold."
Rios's family said they were working on plans to hold a small service in The Bronx Wednesday, after which they planned to ship his body to his native Mexico for burial.
"We're going to miss him so much" Castro said. "He was the man of the house."
With reporting by Aidan Gardiner