A three year old’s frantic cries save the lives of his mother and two siblings.
Yanexia Rivera says her son Raymond woke up when her husband left for work around 6.30am on Thursday, 10 September.
She says about half an hour later Raymond’s chants of ‘Ma Ma Ma smoke, Ma Ma Ma smoke’ startled her awake and she was immediately overcome by a blanket of smoke so thick she could barely breathe.
She quickly woke up her seven-year-old daughter Rosaria who was sleeping with her, grabbed Raymond, and her 14-month-old son Eduardo and ran out of the apartment.
The Boltins Avenue apartment in West Bay did not have a smoke detector, something Mrs. Rivera freely admits that in the three years she lived there she never questioned the landlord about, because, she said, ‘you just never know that these things are going to happen’.
She now says she can’t even think about what the outcome could have been had Raymond not been awake to see smoke pouring from the bedroom where his older sister normally slept.
Fire investigators believe a faulty electrical outlet sparked the blaze that destroyed their home and nearly everything the Riveras owned.
The mother of three doesn’t think about what was lost, only what was saved.
‘I don’t care about material stuff, I care about my children. That’s all I care about.’ Mrs. Rivera said.
The Riveras may not realise just how blessed they are as, according to Department of Planning officials, the owner was illegally supplying the building with electricity from his home.
Chief Building Control Officer Emerson Piercy says this is a prime example of how illegal and unsafe construction puts occupants at risk of serious safety hazards.
‘This particular situation brings to the forefront the blatant disregard for the safety of human life,’ Mr. Piercy said.
Owners of structures considered a hazard to human life, the public welfare or which involve illegal or improper occupancy and are deemed unsafe under the Cayman Islands Building Code have two options: make the structures safe or remove them.
The building the Riveras lived in received extensive damage and will be demolished.
Planning officials are actively working to crack down on unsafe structures and construction methods but Mr. Piercy believes residents need to do their part as well.
‘The public also has personal responsibility to ensure that where they live is legal and safe,’ Mr. Piercy said.
Those words are echoed in this advice from Mrs. Rivera to anyone looking for a place to live.
‘Make sure when you rent a place you have a smoke alarm in the house, it’s very important.’