It was a sad day across the Valley as people heard about the deaths of five children, killed by a house fire on Youngstown’s south side Sunday night.
We now know there were working smoke detectors in the house, which was a Section 8 rental last inspected in July of this year.
The mother survived by jumping from a second-story window. Two firemen also got hurt but were treated Sunday night at St. Elizabeth’s and released.
Fire investigators don’t think someone set the house on fire but they don’t have a cause yet either.
Charles Jefferson and Marilyn Mitchell both had the same idea Monday afternoon. They both dropped off stuffed animals at the house on Parkcliffe Avenue, wanting to do their part to remember what happened there overnight.
“To lose five — you only have to be there to know what that is,” Mitchell said.
“You just want to sit here and give back to her. Show her that the hearts of Youngstown feel her,” Jefferson said.
WKBN 27 First News Video Journalist Nathan Lehota photographed the fire. He described the point he knew it was tragic.
“Children and the white sheets, and then they put the police tape up,” he said. “That’s when I knew it was bad.”
Sandra Murphy owns Flambeau’s Live on Market Street. When she heard about the fire, she helped organize a benefit spaghetti dinner at her restaurant on Tuesday, December 18 from 4 to 8 p.m. It’s $8 a dinner with the hopes of raising $10,000.
“You have burials, you have getting life back together, you have mental health,” Murphy said. “There is a whole lot of things that come together, all of which needs some kind of monetary compensation.”
Back at the scene, Jessica Gonzalez arrived at the memorial to drop some things off. Her daughter and 9-year-old Aleysha Rosario, one of the children killed, were friends and classmates at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School.
“I had to take her out of school so I could be able to explain to her what happened to her friend,” Gonzalez said. “Basically, they were friends from last year. It was hard to tell her.”
What happened on Parkcliffe Avenue affected all parents, including our photographer — the father of a 2-month-old girl.
“I was getting Christmas pictures today and I was holding my child,” Lehota said. “I smelled my coat because it still smelled like smoke from the night — I was wearing the same coat — and it reminded me, and I had to hold in my tears just to try and make my child happy.”
Youngstown City Schools Superintendent Joe Meranto said there were extra counselors and social workers on hand today at Wilson Elementary School. He said they talked with a group of students who were friends with Aleysha and they will continue to have counselors at the school for as long as they’re needed.