The parents of the children killed in a Youngstown house fire in December said there are moments they can barely hold it together, but they’re trying to stay strong for their babies.
America Negron said she woke up to a nightmare on December 9, 2018.
“By the time I woke up, everything was already going on.”
A fire was raging through the first floor of her house on Parkcliffe Avenue.
“Hearing my kids screaming, ‘Mommy, mommy, mommy!'”
She said her motherly instincts kicked in.
“I remember running around, trying to run down the stairs.”
But the fire was already too much. Then two of the five screams — stopped.
“So I realized two of my babies were already gone,” Negron said. “All I’m thinking in my head is, ‘I already lost two, I need to save these three.'”
She thought jumping out of her second-story window was her only chance of saving them.
“If I don’t jump out the window — I can’t find my phone, everything is pitch black, I can barely breathe — nobody’s going to find us,” Negron said.
She said she knocked on several neighbors’ doors, looking for help and asking them to call 911.
Firefighters arrived and got her children out of the house.
“I remember running, trying to grab him and they didn’t let me touch him, they didn’t let me hold him, they didn’t let me see them,” she said.
Medics took Negron to a local hospital, then to Cleveland, where she was in a coma.
“An hour before that happened, I was just talking to my kids on video chat,” said Charles Gunn, the father of four of the children.
Gunn was living in Florida at the time. He found out they were dead from a phone call.
“I really didn’t have a reaction because I didn’t want to believe it was true,” he said.
When Negron woke up from her coma a few days later, she learned all of her children were gone.
She said she isn’t the person she was before.
“I feel like it’s nothing worse than living this hell of living without my babies.”
“Even though I go to my kids’ gravesite, I still don’t believe they’re down there,” Gunn said.
Two parents living through unimaginable grief.
“If I were to take my life — my kids are in heaven, I’m going to hell,” Gunn said.
“Nobody knows the fear, the frustration of hearing your babies in the background, the frustration that you can’t save them, the frustration of what you do,” Negron said.
Both of them are finding some strength in church. Negron is in school, looking to graduate and become a nurse this spring.
Investigators said on Thursday that “mishandling” of smoking products — a lighter or match — caused the fire, which started on the first floor.