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Three-year-old dies in blaze

Mom miscounts rescued children during fire
Published: 
Friday, May 30, 2014
A photographer takes a picture of the charred bedframe on which three-year-old Javier de Freitas died following a fire on Wednesday night which destroyed his family home at Sea Lots, Port-of-Spain. Photo: MICHEAL BRUCE

Residents of Production Drive, Sea Lots, believe the life of three-year-old Javier De Freitas could have been saved had the Fire Services responded promptly instead of insisting they needed police protection because the community was deemed a crime hotspot. De Freitas died in a blaze that completely destroyed his home Wednesday night but residents, who formed a bucket brigade but fought in vain to save him and the house, blamed firefighters for his death. Speaking with the media yesterday, the residents’ spokesman, who identified himself only as Andy, dismissed the firefighters’ reason for not dispatching appliances to the scene as soon as they got the report. “Down here is a hotspot? When was the last time someone got killed here?” a visibly upset Andy asked. “Who contained the fire? Is the same people in the village. This is pure neglect. That hurting the village. No government not helping... they only want publicity. This is a serious time. If the villagers wasn't vigilant more people would have died.”

 

Andy told the media around 11 pm he heard a sound and then saw fire in the roof of Bernadine Hepburn’s home. By the time he raced to the house, he said, she and her children were outside and had told neighbours everyone was safely outside. He said two minutes later, while neighbours were using a bucket brigade to douse the flames, a head count was done and they realised Javier was missing. Andy said he and others had to restrain one of Hepburn’s sons from racing back into the burning building to save his asthmatic sibling. Hepburn, 41, who did all she could to save herself and her 13 children, was yesterday still blaming herself for Javier’s death. She said she and her children, ranging in ages from 11 months to 22 years, were asleep when the fire began. She said her son was sleeping on a bottom bunk bed and everyone thought they all had made it out safely before the fire, since each child was awakened. 

 

Hepburn, who works at Church’s Chicken, Glencoe, recalled that around 11 pm she was asleep when she heard a crackling sound and then saw smoke and fire in the roof of her wooden home. “I lost everything,” she said, crying. “The fire service took two hours to come. Everything burnt. “I find I could have done more. I take up the children. I have older sons—22, 19, 17, 15—all were asleep and with the heat and the smoke we just rush outside. The neighbours came in, break down the door and form a bucket brigade and put out the fire before the fire service reach.” She said by the time fire officers arrived they had nothing to do because the house had already been completely destroyed, the fire extinguished and her child was dead.
“I don’t have a clue what I going to do and go now,” Hepburn said. The autopsy report by pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov yesterday showed Javier died of smoke and soot inhalation. 

 

Fire service: We were busy 

In response to the residents’ complaints yesterday, Chief Fire Officer Nayar Rampersad said in a phone interview his men were at another fire in Tunapuna when they received the call. He acknowledged that crime had negatively affected some communities and said whenever his officers were threatened they sought the assistance of the police. He denied, though, that was the case on Wednesday, saying: “Where life and limb is at risk we will respond and not put that the area is a hotspot as a front not to do so.”