EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – The Metro East community is mourning the five children who died in a fire Friday morning.
The fire happened in an apartment building located in the 500 block of 29th Street in East St. Louis, Illinois. It started after the mother of the five children went to pick up another adult from work, according to the East St. Louis Fire Department.
When she returned home, the mother tried to get the children out herself, but she was unsuccessful. The fire started at about 3:45 a.m. It is unclear if the building had working smoke alarms.
The fire is under investigation by the Illinois State Fire Marshal and the Illinois State Police Department.
Four children were pronounced dead at the scene. The fifth child died on the way to the hospital.
The children have been identified as Deontay Davis, Jr., 9, twins Heaven and Nevaeh, 8, Jabari Johnson, 4, and Loyal Dunigan, 2.
“Sadness as youth who will not be able to see the next day. People have kids and when you come home, you know your loved one is gone, especially with five kids. It’s (a) tragedy,” Fire Chief Jason Blackmon said.
As family members are trying to cope with the loss, the community came out to place flowers, balloons, and teddy bears at the apartment building.
A vigil is planned for tonight at 7 p.m.
Greg Dunigan, the children’s grandfather, said he struggles to understand why this happened. He described his grandchildren as great kids who avoided trouble and tried to be a good influence on everyone around them.
A next-door neighbor said she was devasted.
”When I came out, I did not see them bringing out two of the older kids. It broke my heart,” Carlinda Sheard said.
The city’s mayor, Robert Eastern, was emotional as he talked about the tragedy.
“It hurts,” Eastern said as he wiped his eyes.