HE was a devoted father who doted on his child - a boy full of life and energy, despite living with a disability.
But as he watched his inner southern suburbs home burn in the early hours of Monday, Donald McColl's only thought was for his "beloved" son Scott, 12, trapped by a wall of flames.
In an act of heroism that has left him fighting for life, Mr McColl, known as Don, raced back into his Netherby house in a brave, but futile, attempt to rescue Scott, who has autism.
Scott, a "gentle, likeable, valued" and popular special needs student, tragically died in the front hallway just after 3.30am as tried to escape.
His mother, Antonette, aged in her 40s, was working nightshift at Australia Post where police told her of the tragedy.
Neighbours told of the harrowing moment he screamed "Scott's dead" as another six international Asian students - staying in an outhouse in the rear - remained trapped by flames and a locked gate.
They escaped uninjured.
As the father, 65, lies in a critical condition in the Royal Adelaide Hospital intensive care unit with "extensive burns" following emergency surgery, friends paid tribute to the "hardworking and devoted" family.
Sturt CIB detectives are investigating what sparked the Smith-Dorrien St blaze in a backroom - gutting the house and causing $250,000 damage.
A devastated Mrs McColl, originally from Cebu City, central Philippines, was maintaining a bedside hospital vigil last night as friends, and the local Filipino community, rallied.
Relatives are preparing to travel to Adelaide while staff and students at Errington Special Education Centre, Plympton, in the inner south, are being offered counselling.
Friends told how the trio were preparing for an Asian holiday next month after an "amazing" Sydney trip in May.
They had spent the weekend at the movies and taking Scott for a haircut.
Speaking on behalf of the family last night, Filipino community leader Aida Garcia described the parents as "very devoted" and hailed Mr McColl a "hero".
"She is very, very devastated losing her only child, her only son," she said.
"Antonette and Donald would give their lives for the life of their son - that's how much they love their son.
"It's every parent's fear to lose their children but for (them), the loss of Scott was more than anything they can imagine. He would give his life for Scott. These parents are really hardworking and everybody loves them. Nobody can believe what happened."
In a statement, Errington's acting principal, Sam Hele, also paid tribute to the popular student.
"We are shocked and deeply saddened by the death," he said. "(Scott) was a gentle, likeable and valued member of the school community and everyone who has come into contact with him will take this extremely hard."
Neighbour Susan Bowler found Mr McColl leaning on his front fence, holding his severely injured arms.
"He said, 'Scott's dead' and the students were stuck out the back," she said. "Half a minute later the firefighters arrived and tended to him. They had to break down the door."
Police will report to the Coroner.
MFS Commander Rainer Kiessling said the flames engulfed the walls, windows and went through the roof.
"There were six international students who were living in the premises trapped out the back by the intensity of the fire.
"We escorted them through the garage area to the front."
He said the fire was believed to have started at the rear of the building where the students were trapped before quickly spreading to the roof.
"There is very narrow access from the rear yard to the front, so the intensity of the fire trapped the students in the back yard," he said.