Parent of one of three children killed in Negril fire stunned
LITTLE BAY, Westmoreland — WHEN eight-year-old Savia McKenzie and two other children perished in a fire at his grandmother’s house last week, it was the first time his mother, Natasha Campbell, had allowed the little boy to leave her care. “Me never leave him go anywhere yet, never, never.
First, first time him ever leave me. Ask anybody around here. First him ever leave me, first,” bemoaned the grieving mother at her Little Bay, Westmoreland, home yesterday.
“If I was around him, he couldn’t die. Me would a save me baby, me would a save him because a me one have him from seven week’s old. Oh God, boy me a tell you… Oh God, oh God, some things can happen Father God,” said Campbell, popularly called ‘Smiley’.
Savia went to spend holidays with his grandmother, and perished in the fire that consumed the dwelling along with his cousin, Byonce Leslie, 11; and his aunt Britannia Boning,14.
The children were unable to escape the burning house due to a padlocked metal grille. Upon news of the horrible death of the three children, Savia’s grandmother and his mother were admitted in hospital after they both broke down.
Campbell, who lost her son, niece and sister in the fire was treated and released two days later. However her mother is still hospitalised, having suffered a severe nervous breakdown.
Fire personnel said the children died from smoke inhalation after attempting to save themselves by going into a bathtub, which they had filled with water.
Head of the Westmoreland Fire Department Senior Deputy Superintendent Morine Thompson said the Negril station received the fire call about 6:35 am on Friday. Upon arrival, the firefighters were told that children were inside the house, but after they cut the grille and put out the blaze they discovered the bodies of the three children, slumped.
The owner of the premises is believed to have locked the grille leaving behind her eight and 11-year-old grandchildren and 14-year-old daughter inside the house, before heading to the gym.
A sympathetic resident from the West End community of Negril, who gave his name as ‘Junior’, who was among a group of area residents who tried to save the children, told the Jamaica Observer West yesterday that he still hears the children’s screams reverberating in his ears.
“All right now me can hear the pickney them a scream inna me ears. Sometimes, when me hear them a scream me just go a road go drink one shot a rum, fi see if me can feel better,” he explained. “Me don’t eat whole day (Friday) a pure rum me drink the way how me stress out. Me just a think inna myself seh wah me could a do fi save them.” Another male resident, Cuthbert Tomlinson who is also called ‘Clive’ and ‘Kutchie’ expressed similar sentiments.
“You know wah me feel boss…when me hear the kids them bawl out fi help. Up to now it still trouble me. When me remember when the kids them bawl out and me run go up there and can’t do nothing,” bemoaned Tomlinson, who was among other residents, including Junior, who reportedly cried openly after efforts to save the children proved futile. He recalled that when he became aware of the fire he ran to the scene where Junior and his brother were already trying to rescue the children from the house which was engulfed in flames.
In the meantime, Junior, who also lives in close proximity to the spot where the children perished, recounted the unbearable, searing heat emanating from the house, which singed his beard during the rescue attempt. “My brother came to call me and me run out in me underpants and when me reach me hear the pickney them a bawl out inna the house. So, me run around the house seeking a place to enter to take them out.
Me take up a (building) block fling pon the house and it bounce back.” He said he again attempted to use the block to hit out a section of the wooden walls, when he heard a loud hissing sound, which he assumed to be coming from a gas cylinder coming from inside the dwelling. He said then, the crying from the children ceased. “We couldn’t do anything more. There was a ball a fire in there. When me go near the house me smell something like me beard a burn up.
Nobody couldn’t do anything anymore. You see if the house never grille up the pickney them would a save.” Meanwhile, the grieving Campbell disclosed that she used to call her son up to four times each day, while he was spending time with his grandmother. “Me mother had to say you don’t have to call him so often, he is safe,” she told the Observer West.
Savia, who was said to be eager to spend holidays with his grandmother, was expected to return home in time to return to the Little Bay All-Age School in Westmoreland, where he would have been placed in grade two, on September 3. The bereaved mother said apart from his books, she had bought everything else for her son to return to begin the new school year.