EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – Friends, families, and some total strangers held a vigil tonight for the five children who died in an overnight fire.
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.
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.
The fire is under investigation by the Illinois State Fire Marshal and the Illinois State Police Department.
The community filled the area in front of the home starting right before sundown. Family, friends, and even strangers gathered to light candles and pray.
Fox 2 learned that today is the mother’s birthday.
“She’s broken. It’s hard for us to just try and say the right things to her,” the mother’s sister said. “She took care of her kids, she loved those kids.”
Greg Dunigan, the children’s grandfather, could barely speak when he said, “I just can’t believe it. All I know is God’s got his day for everybody. I guess he took them all together.”
He shared pictures of his grandchildren.
Neighbor Carlinda Sheard watched the tragedy unfold saying, “It broke my heart. It broke my heart so bad. That’s going to be the only image in my head from now on.”
“She was a good person. She was a good mother. I just give my condolences to all of them because I mean it’s a hurtful feeling to lose all your children at one time. It hurts. I literally feel the pain for her.”