Two adults and a small child died in a house fire Sunday in the 2000 block of North 43rd Street.
Six people were inside the one story frame home at 2016 N. 43rd St. Three made it out alive, but three people — a 27-year-old pregnant mother, a 4-year-old boy and a 32-year-old male — were trapped inside and died.
East St. Louis Fire Chief James Blackmon identified the dead as: Kendra Williams, 4-year-old Jayden Harris, and Chantez Reynolds.
Corey Burries, who owned the home, said she, three adults and two children were inside.
“I was asleep. My grandson was screaming fire. I opened my bedroom door. The smoke overwhelmed me. I let up my window and threw him out. I started to climb out of the window. I was calling my daughter and her fiance, telling them to come to the fire escape, which is outside of my bedroom window. They never came,” Burries said through tears. She said they were in a back bedroom.
One family member had to be restrained by other family members as he tried to get to the burning house. Several family members said neighbors tried to get in to help, but were overcome by the thick smoke that was raging inside of the burning structure.
East St. Louis Assistant Fire Chief Todd Hill said the call came in to the fire department at 1:42 p.m. Sunday reporting “people trapped inside.”
“When we arrived, about five minutes after the call came in, we learned that a couple of people had gotten out,” Hll said. “The house was a big ball of fire when the crew from Engine House 422 arrived on scene. They immediately looked for a point of entry and tried to knock the fire down. There was a lot of fire.”
Hill, who has been fighting fires for 25 years, said he has seen some pretty bad ones and this was among them.
A crew from Engine House 426 also battled the blaze.
Hill praised the work of the six-member crew. “Whenever there are people trapped inside, the guys do everything they can to get everyone out alive. They did a tremendous job. Unfortunately, though, three people did not make it out,” Hill said.
He said the bodies were inside of the house in a bedroom. Hill said he didn’t know where the fire started or what may have caused it. A member of the Illinois State Fire Marshal's office was on scene.
Smoke was still coming from the roof at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Hill said firefighters were able to extinguish the fire in an hour, but the crews would remain on scene checking for hot spots.
Burries and other family members stood across the street from the burned house hugging and crying. Some in the large crowd said, “Oh, my God. Oh, my God.” As the news spread more people came rushing to the scene with looks of horror on their faces asking others if it were true. They wanted to know if their loved ones, in fact, had died in the fire. When they learned that they had, some let out loud screams.
Janice Williams, 25, Burries’ daughter, was inside the house when the fire started. She made it out with her mother and 1-year-old son. Jayden who died in the fire was also her son.
Kendra Williams was her sister. She was five months pregnant, Janice Williams and other family members said. Chantez Reynolds was Kendra William’s fiancee. Like her mom, Williams said she woke up to her son screaming “fire.”
Williams said the smoke was so intense that she nor her mother knew where her sister was.
Kendra Williams worked at Walmart in Granite City, Janice Williams said.
She said her son was really smart and was very good with computers and telephone technology.
Janice Williams, while watching the first responders get ready to bring the bodies of her family members out, said, “I’m not ready. I’m not ready.” She covered her face with her hands.
She said her son, who she knew would grow up to be somebody, won’t get that chance because his life was cut short.
She said he didn’t get the chance to even go to school. Williams said her son was a bubbly individual.
And Kendra several family members said, was a “really sweet person.”
Several members of the family had just gathered at the home Saturday night, family members said.
The family didn’t have any insurance. Family members said they are homeless now and will need some place to live. They will also need help paying for the funerals.
Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503