“IT’S the screams. The screams I will never forget.”
These were the words of one man while speaking to the Express on the roadway off Rookery Nook #1, Maraval, yesterday morning near the smouldering home in which three children had died.
The victims, Ezekiel Burke, 17, Faith Burke, six, and Kayden Burke, three, were trapped in an area of the house which had been secured by burglar-proofing. Two other siblings, Janiceia Burke, 15, and Kiseane Burke, 13, were not trapped in the house at the time, and were safely removed from the scene before they could sustain any injuries or be trapped by debris, said Chief Fire Officer Arnold Bristow.
The man said: “They tried to save them. Oh God, if you see them (neighbours) try. Men were jumping walls to come and bring water. People in their work clothes run out of the office with fire extinguishers in hand to out the fire. All kinda thing. They were able to get the two other children out. But they were in another part of the house that had not been locked up (by burglar-proofing) so it was easier to break in and get them out before they were hurt. The father was trying to break the door because the older boy (Ezekiel) was lying on the ground there begging for help. You could literally see him on the ground in the gallery, trying to get out. That was the most heartbreaking thing I’ve seen. He was on the ground, crying for help. His hands was outside the bar reaching out.
“I don’t think I will ever forget that, and I can’t imagine how his father is feeling right now, having to watch him die, and not able to do a thing to save him. I don’t know how he’s going to cope. I don’t know how the family is going to cope. God be with them all,” said one man who only gave his name as Thomas.
The father of the three children, Troy Burke, had to be hospitalised for first-degree burns he sustained in trying to rescue his children and was discharged yesterday.
“He picked up a sledgehammer and was trying to break down the burglar-proofing. Even when the heat became so intense people had to move back, he remained. He was trying. Eventually, the heat and all became too much and he had to fall back. The man tried his best to save his children,” an eyewitness said.
About 7.36 a.m. yesterday, police received a report of a house on fire in the vicinity of Royal Bank in Maraval.
A team of officers led by Insp John and Insp Farrell, and others responded.
When officers arrived, they observed a one-storey home on fire.
Soon after, however, the officers heard screams.
With the assistance of residents of the area, the officers attempted to gain entry to the home but were unsuccessful.
Units from the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service, under the leadership of Deputy Chief Fire Officer Marlon Smith and FSSO Castino arrived, and the fire officers used sledgehammers and axes to force their way into the home.
During this process, Insp Dirk John suffered injuries to his body.
The fire was contained following which the bodies of three children were found.
Ezekiel’s body was found in the gallery of the house, which was surrounded by burglar-proofing.
It is believed he was trying to escape when he died.
In a front room, the officers found the body of Faith Burke on the ground.
In another room, they found the body of three-year-old Kayden.
District Medical Officer Dr Sangamreddi visited the scene and ordered the removal of the bodies for post-mortems.
Visiting the scene were ACP Yusuf Gaffar, ASP Walker, Insp Sooklalsingh, Sgt Khan, Sgt Harripersad, and Sgt Seelal, along with Sgt Seecharan and Cpl Garcia from Homicide Bureau, Region 1.
The scene was also visited by personnel from the Fire Service Investigation Unit under the supervision FSSO Forde and personnel from T&TEC.
WPC Jack-George is continuing investigations.
Chief Fire Officer Bristow offered condolences to the Burke family yesterday on behalf of the Fire Service, saying: “This is not the kind of thing that anyone ever expects to happen, nor is it something that anyone ever wants to deal with. It was a sad thing to hear and respond to, so I can only imagine how the family is feeling and coping.”
He noted that the Fire Service had yet to determine what would have caused the fire. However, he assured that investigators will be working assiduously to make that determination.
Bristow also thanked neighbours for their efforts, and he made special mention of a “doubles vendor” who went above and beyond the call of duty.
“From our information, everyone responded. No one hesitated. I want to thank God for the assistance for the neighbours and the local doubles vendor who rendered immediate aid upon becoming aware of the fire, and hearing the cries of the children in the building. They gave immediate aid. Two other siblings, Janiceia Burke, 15, and Kiseane Burke, 13, were not trapped in the house at the time, and were safely removed from the scene before they could sustain any injuries, or become trapped by any debris. So I want to give a heartfelt thanks to those who leapt into action to remove the other two children, and, despite the circumstances, did all they could to help the other three,” Bristow said.