A fire that was started by kids playing with matches, raced through a three story row house, killing 5 children, who ranged in ages from three to seven. Their bodies were found on the second floor, where the fire apparently started. Two 8-year-old children managed to escape without injury.
Neighbor Sontoya Perry, 22, said she could hear the children screaming inside the house as the fire engulfed them, but was unable to help because the steps leading to the door were in flames.
Authorities were originally getting conflicting stories, and were told that the children were in the care of a teenage babysitter when the fire broke out. It was later determined that the ‘babysitter’ did not exist, and that the kids were left alone while their mothers had a beer at the bar.
Prosecutor Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said he will recommend to police that Shakita Mangham, mother of three of the children, be charged with involuntary manslaughter and other counts, including charges related to endangering firefighters and lying to authorities about the baby-sitter. The mother of the other children may also face charges, though authorities declined to say what charges she would face.
The children were laid to rest on Saturday, June 16, and hundreds of mourners gathered to remember them. Five small caskets…two white, two pink, and one blue, were surrounded by flowers and stuffed animals at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church. Reverend William Curtis stated that despite the controversy surrounding the deaths, it’s not a time for blame. “What does it matter? Five angels have died,” he said. “Who cares what happened and how it happened? …It is our children who died.”
Amen to that reverend. This was a tragic incident, and it’s easy to be angry that 5 young lives were lost, especially when it could have (and should have) been avoided. But blaming, no matter how justified, only heaps additional suffering onto an already tragic incident. It is our hope, however, that this tragedy can be used as a learning experience and warning to others. Children these ages should not be left unattended for any amount of time. It only takes once for things to go wrong.