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“Oh God! Why are these things happening to little children?” La Romaine resident Donna Banfield cried yesterday as undertakers removed the little body of four-year-old Kimora Millette, who died in a house fire. Although Betsy Street residents formed a bucket brigade and managed to extinguish the blaze, Kimora’s burnt body was found huddled at the side of a bed.
Kimora was the 15th child to die under tragic circumstances since March 1 this year, when baby Simeon Cottle died hours after a botched caesarian section on his mother Quelly Ann at the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital. Kimora and her twin sister, Kiara, were in a bedroom at their grandmother Brenda Millette’s home moments before tragedy struck yesterday. The girls were waiting for the school bus to take them to the Head Start Pre-school a short distance away at Pond Street.
Shortly after 8 am, Millette, 55, left them in a bedroom watching television while she tended to Banfield at the shop at the front of the house. Banfield said Kiara then suddenly ran outside, telling them that Kimora had been playing with a cigarette lighter and that there was a fire. “The little girl run out the room and say, ‘mama, mama, fire!’” Banfield told the T&T Guardian. Millette ran inside, Banfield said.
“And I started to bawl and call all the neighbours around and we started a bucket brigade. The grandmother and another granddaughter were inside already and they tried to open the door but the room was already engulfed in flames. “Neighbours ran in and put out the fire. Everybody saw the child and even threw a blanket on her head,” she recalled. Only the bedroom was damaged, according to firefighters who responded to the call.
Police, led by Insp Don Gajadhar, Insp Yusuff Gaffar and Cpl Kerry Morales, spent hours at the scene while firefighters tried to find out what caused it. Preliminary checks revealed the child was playing with a cigarette lighter in the bedroom. An autopsy by forensic pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov yesterday showed Kimora died of smoke and soot inhalation. He said although she suffered second-and third-degree burns they occurred after she died.
Scores of neighbours gathered around the family’s home to sympathise with relatives yesterday. But for the twins’ mother, Marsha Carabana, it was too much to bear and she had to be taken to hospital. The girls’ father, Ronan Millette, embraced Carabana as the two struggled to come to terms with the death. Millette, who works at Damus Ltd, said Kimora was usually the first to greet him when he returned from work. He managed a smile as he described her as a fun-loving child.
“She was like any normal child, real loving. The both of them, actually. They had their way. They were twins, so they were miserable like normal but she was the more outgoing one.” Although there were reports that the child had a cigarette lighter, Millette said he did not know what had taken place. He said because he left for work around 4.30 am, it was customary for the children to be dressed and sent to school by their grandmother.
Speaking of the growing number of child deaths in T&T, he said it was only when tragedy reaches “on your front steps,” that someone could fully understand what it felt like. As relatives walked around overcome with grief, a puzzled expression was on Kiara’s face as she rested in the arms of her pre-school teacher Kathleen Skerritt.
Skerritt said she visited the family’s home to console the child after the bus driver told her about the tragedy. Describing Kimora as a loving child with a sunny personality, she said the twins were happiest at school when singing You Are My Sunshine. Oropouche West MP Stacy Roopnarine visited the family and said the Government was prepared to assist them. She said: “This really shows the need for a greater emphasis on the supervision of children. Parents have to ensure that they always look at what their children are doing.
“As members of a community, members of a village, we also have to take responsibility for children in our communities.
15 children die tragically
Some 15 children have died in tragic circumstances so far this year:
March 1: On Carnival Saturday, Quelly Ann Cottle, 38, gave birth by caesarian section to baby Simeon at the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital. During the procedure, the surgical blade made a seven-centimetre cut in his head. The child lived for five hours.
April 13: Ten-month-old Omari “Buba” Mayers and his sister, three-year-old Keanna “Keke” Mayers, killed by their father, Barry Karamath, 33, who fed them poison before taking his own life at Matura.
April 18 (Good Friday): Three-month-old Akiela Gill found dead at the Sea Lots home of her father. An autopsy by forensic pathologist Dr Hughvon des Vignes showed the baby choked on her own vomit.
May 13: Seventeen-month-old Jaedon Cudjoe found dead nine hours after his grandfather forgot him in the back seat of his car.
May 28: Javier de Freitas, three, died in a fire which destroyed his family’s Sea Lots home.
June 1: Brothers Jadel Holder, nine and Jamal Braithwaite, 15, made to lie on the floor of their Morvant home by gunmen who shot them once each in the back of the head.
June 1: Christian Obadele Gonzales, 23 months, drowned in a pond used for baptism by his father, a Baptist priest, at the family's Mayaro home.
June 3: Jemimah Agard, five, drowned on a school visit to the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) pool, Port-of-Spain
June 6: Matai Phillip, the ten-month-old son of national goalkeeper Marvin Phillip, died from positional asphyxia caused by the car seat in which he was left at the Anointed Angels daycare at Edinburgh 500, Chaguanas.
June 8: Jessica Mohammed, of Erin, of injuries suffered in a car accident a week before.
June 13: Eleven-year-old Rehanna Briggs died from accidental asphyxia while dancing with a blouse hanging from a clothes line at her Williamsville home.
June 15: Six-month-old Christopher Rambahan died while being breastfed by his mother at Chaguanas.
June 17: Four-year-old Kimora Millette dies in a fire at her family’s La Romaine home.