EAST ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – Five children were killed in an overnight fire in East St. Louis.
The fire broke out at an apartment building at 29th and State streets before 3 a.m. Friday. Fire officials told News 4 the cause of the fire is under investigation.
Two children found inside of a bedroom were pronounced dead. Three children who were found on the floor in the kitchen area were pronounced dead after being taken out of the building. The children are between 2 and 9 years old.
Relatives identified the children as 9-year-old Deontae, 8-year-old twins Neveah and Heaven, 4-year-old Jabari, and 2-year-old Loy'el.
"They are blameless in this. They're just kids. It's tough," East St. Louis Assist. Fire Chief George McClellan said.
McClellan said the mother of the children left the home to go get another adult. He said the mother tried to go back into the house several times to rescue the children.
An hours-long vigil was held Friday night to remember the children. Close to one hundred people surrounded the home where the family lived with the porch covered in balloons, stuffed animals and flowers for the children.
The main message of the night was for people to bashing the children's mother, Sabrina, about not being home when the fire started.
“She took care of her kids, she loved her kids, when she didn’t have anything and she was homeless she took care of those kids," said the children's aunt.
"Everybody has made this mistake once in their life. You know, everyone has left their kids at home. Nobody expected this to happen, she didn’t expect this to happen. It happened so we don’t want everybody on Facebook and get on social media nd slander her name and try to throw her under the bus, this is an honest mistake. This is a tragedy. She wasn’t planning on come back and seeing her house on fire," said Pastor Doug Hollis, a family friend.
"It's hard when you have kids and family members and you can only imagine what this mother and father are going through right now. It's a tough day," said East St. Louis Jason Blackmon. "We want people to take fire seriously. Smoke alarms, turn off electronics at night, don't burn candles, people take a lot of that stuff for granted."
The grandfather of the children also lives in the building and no one else in the building were hurt in the fire.
Multiple families lived in the building at the time the fire broke out. All of the children are from the same family. Other people who live in the building were not hurt. The building is now condemned. A woman who used to live in the building says it had no working smoke detectors when she lived there.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family with funeral costs and additional expenses.
Celebrating that we just found out the funeral costs for the five kids who died in the house fire in East St. Louis has been paid for pic.twitter.com/1j5KdzFNQU— Kim St. Onge (@KimKMOV) August 7, 2021
The East St. Louis School District released the following statement about the fire:
Today the East St. Louis School District is grieving the loss of three students and their younger siblings. We send our sincere condolences to the family as they cope with this tragedy. We ask for respect and privacy as the family and our staff work through this significant loss.
Our crisis team was on the scene following the event and is partnering with the Red Cross and Community Life Line to provide ongoing support services. Counseling services will also be provided to classmates and staff.