Children Die in Fire: “My Heart is Ripped Right Now”

Posted at 8:36 PM, Feb 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-19 12:02:43-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Three children, all under 3 years old, died in a fire on the city’s north side Monday.

The fire call came in around 2 p.m. to the Interfaith Homes off Woodward Avenue.

When firefighters arrived,  smoke and flames were pouring out of the windows of the apartment building.

Inside, firefighters discovered the bodies of three children: twins Tevin and Ty’nitha Williams, 3, and a 1-year-old little girl, Tyonna Henderson.

Investigators believe the children were left home alone.

“There was nobody home at the time when we arrived here, and we don’t know whoever was watching the kids had left,” said Kalamazoo Public Safety Assistant Fire Chief Brian Uridge.

Uridge said the fire was far along, and the floor had begun to collapse before crews even got inside.

“The stairway was burned out, and the fire was pretty advanced,” said Uridge.

Family members of the little ones watched and waited at the scene.

A criminal investigation is being done as part of public safety policy.

Later Monday evening, detectives went inside the gutted building to gather evidence and waiting on autopsy reports to find out more about how long the children may have been in the fire.

The father of the twins told Fox 17 at the scene he was not there at the time and is having a hard time understanding why the children were left alone.

Residents of the complex said a fourth sibling, a little girl, was able to escape the fire, but police could not confirm those details.

“My heart is ripped right now,” said Jacqueline Fullerton, Tyonna’s great-grandmother. She lives down the street and rushed to the scene when she got a call from a relative.

“It was just the flames all over, and people all around, and we didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “I did have a chance to talk to the mom she was talking ot a detective and she said she heard the kids upstairs and she just heard them crying, but she couldn’t go get them.”

No word on a cause.

One firefighter was injured during the response after he fell from a ladder. He was taken to the hospital but the injuries were thought to be minor.

Public safety officers also had to break up several fights during crowd control at the apartment complex.

All four units in the building are damaged and have been vacated.

The American Red Cross is assisting with short-term emergency shelter for the affected families, according to a news release from Interfaith Homes, a LIFT Foundation sponsored property.

“It’s a sad day when young children are lost in a tragedy such as this,” said LIFT Board President David Anderson. “Our hearts go out to these grieving families.”