Ja blaze claims kids’ lives

SPRINGFIELD, ST.JAMES, Jamaica – The look of anguish and despair on Lydia Clarke’s tear-stained face bore testimony to her deep-seated grief following the death of her three children, who perished in a fire in Springfield, St. James, on Monday night.

The fire, believed to be the work of an arsonist, also claimed the life of her estranged boyfriend, 44-year-old, Neville Bernard, who is also the father of the children, Shanae, four; Ricardo, eight; and Nick, 10.

Reports are that Mr. Bernard and the children, who were holidaying with him, were awakened by intense heat at about 10:00 p.m. Realising that the house was on fire, Mr. Bernard reportedly attempted to rescue his children, but realised that his bedroom door was barred.

He reportedly managed to escape the inferno but re-entered the house to save the children. He, however, sustained severe burns and fell through the charred floorboards and rolled down a steep hill. The fire brigade was summoned and Mr. Bernard was taken to hospital for treatment. Undertakers later removed the remains of the children.

Mr. Bernard succumbed to his injuries while undergoing treatment.

When The Gleaner visited the scene, sections of the structure were still smouldering and tufts of Mr. Bernard’s dreadlocks and strips of his seared skin were left behind.

In the neighbouring community of Barnett Bush, Ms. Clarke and her distraught relatives were in a state of shock, as the reality of the tragedy set in.

Recounting how she heard about her children’s fate, Mr. Clarke told The Gleaner, “I was asleep at home and I got a call from a friend. I was surprised that she called so late,” she said. “She asked me, where the children, and if they are at Neville. I told her that they were staying there. She asked me if I was sure they are at Neville, because she pass the house and it was burning down.

“I jump up and run to the main road and flag down a car. I asked the man to take me down the road and he said yes. When I get to the house, I saw the firemen. The people did not let me see them (the children) and all I can remember is that I faint same time. “

Wailing and stomping, unable to maintain her composure, Ms. Clarke questioned openly if all her children had died. She explained that her children were to return home on Sunday but heavy rains had prevented them from doing so.

“My belly bottom and my breasts are burning. I am not going to see them again. Today is Ricardo’s birthday.”

She lamented, “My son Nick was so bright. If I am writing something and I cannot spell it I would ask him and he would tell me the right thing,

“Over the weekend, they asked me for some books and pencils because they said they want to read. Even the four-year-old. Everybody say she is a nice baby. The called her ‘Sixty’ because them say she is four going on sixty,” she sobbed.

And while Ms. Clarke’s grief seemed too much to bear, her mother, Chelsea Buchanan, who was also treated for shock following the incident, pondered on how the family would meet the funeral expenses.

“I just buried my brother. My nephew said that none of us must dead for now because it too expensive. I call him and all now him don’t call me back. Lord Jesus.”

Mayor of Montego Bay, Noel Donaldson, visited the family yesterday and promised assistance from the St. James Parish Council through the Poor Relief Department.