It was meant to be their first Christmas together as a happy, united family.
But the dreams of Fazeeda Gabriel and two of her children–Leandra Gabriel, 14, and Kyle Gabriel, ten–ended when they died in a fire early yesterday. Gabriel, 34, the daughter of Princes Town councillor Nazrool Ali, was found huddled on the floor of their bedroom, cradling her children in her arms. Police said she died around 3.15 am, while trying to save the children as they screamed from the centre bedroom on the upper floor of the house, located at Battoo Avenue, Marabella. Her second daughter Diandra Kristan, 12, a student of Parvati Girls' High School, escaped with cuts and bruises, while their stepfather Daniel Bobby Persad, suffered burns to 40 per cent of his body. Diandra jumped through the back window after forcing herself through the burglarproofing, which trapped the family inside the burning house. Persad jumped through a side window, before hitting a shed and landing unconscious on the ground.
Ravi Dodough, 36, a tenant who lived downstairs and his son Joshua, 13, managed to escape the flames unhurt. Speaking at the scene of the fire, Dodough said he awoke after hearing a loud crackling sound. He said he ran upstairs and saw the living room engulfed in flames. Realising the house was padlocked, Dodough snatched up a broom handle and began smashing the glass windows. He said: "I screamed up Bobby's name and he and Fazeeda stumbled out. Bobby was burnt and his skin was falling off. He could not find the keys for the burglarproofing. The children were bawling for help and Fazeeda ran back inside after hearing them." The fire and screams alerted next-door neighbour Azad Mohammed who immediately pulled out a ladder and fire hose to extinguish the blaze. During an interview, Mohammed said he ran to the back of the house, propped the ladder and began soaking the back room where the two girls Leandra and Diandra slept.
He said: "The entire room was ablaze and then I see the little girl running. She squeezed through the burglarproofing because she is tiny. But the other children were in the centre bedroom. I could not get to them." Firefighters arrived on the scene shortly after and managed to extinguish the flames. Police said Gabriel and her children died from smoke inhalation. Persad was rushed to hospital where he remains warded in a critical condition. Gabriel's father, Councillor Ali, said it would have been the family's first Christmas together. He said Gabriel worked as a cashier at Fens Store in Marabella, and broke up with her husband years ago. He said five months ago, she found new love with Persad. "They were looking forward to Christmas. She was supposed to go shopping with the children on Saturday...The children loved their stepfather and he loved them," Ali said. Gabriel's co-workers said she attended their Christmas party hours before the fire.
Neighbours described Gabriel and her family as hospitable and cheerful, saying they were the lights of the community. Fire officers said the fire may have been caused by an electrical malfunction.