Police have launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding a Sandy Point house fire that claimed the lives of two young children last Saturday. The victims, 7-year-old Demarie Browne and his 2-year-old cousin Carvelle Pennyfeather, were burned to death in the evening blaze while Gwenneth Pennyfeather, mother of the toddler, received severe burns and was hospitalized. The Observer spoke with fire officer Joseph Audian of the Sandy Point Fire and Rescue Station who informed that the two-bedroom concrete home housed approximately 19 persons, most of which were young children. He recounted the events of the fateful night. “At about 9:50 p.m. we received a call about a house fire at Bourkes Housing Project in Sandy Point. The unit responded and upon arrival at the scene met a 3-bedroom house with a back bedroom engulfed in flames. Fire officers got into action and extinguished the fire,” he said. Audian said after the fire was quelled, a search of the home turned up two small bodies burned beyond facial recognition. They were identified By family members as Demarie and Carvelle.Reports from the scene as were related to The Observer By reliable sources were that both mothers of the deceased children, Pennyfeather and Velma Burt claimed they were at home when the fire occurred. Audian said he could not confirm if any adults were present at the time Fire and Rescue arrived. However, another officer had claimed Pennyfeather said she was in the kitchen “cutting up seasoning” when the fire erupted. She sustained her injuries attempting to rescue the two children. “There were other children in the house when the fire occurred however the police are investigating the circumstances that led to the deaths of the two children,” he said. That investigation would most likely focus on whether the children were left without adult supervision resulting in the mothers being guilty of neglect, in which case criminal charges could be brought against them. The small bedroom where the children perished is located next to the kitchen which served as the only exit of the home. The Miami shutters of the windows had partially melted away and blackened areas were visible on the external walls of the room leading from the windows to the ceiling. The rest of the house sustained fire damage but the structure was not completely gutted. Fire and Rescue will conduct their own investigation into the cause of the fire, which up until press time had not yet been established or relayed to the media. The Observer was informed By a reliable source that a retired US Fire Chief who normally assists with training of local firefighters is currently on island lending his expertise in that regard. The Observer interviewed a neighbor of the Burt family who said she was at home some 20 feet away when she smelled smoke and then heard a loud explosion. “I was right in here when it happened and as soon as I started smelling smoke I heard a loud whoosh. When I ran to see what happened I saw flames gushing out the back bedroom windows and I could hear screaming,” she said. The woman said she had never before seen flames leap that high into the air. “There was a party just starting up on the other side of the street when it happened. People saying how the music was so loud that people couldn’t hear what was going but the music hadn’t started yet, people had just started coming. The people at the house grabbed a hose and everyone rush across the street and tried to help.” She said some men broke into the front windows in what should have been the living room but had been barred off as an exit to create a makeshift bedroom. She said those children at the front of the house were rescued but the intense heat of the fire prevented the rescuers from getting close to the burning bedroom. All this time she said, the screams of the children could be heard amid the roar of the fire. The Observer was informed that the large family is presently taking shelter with various friends and family members in the area. Most of their possessions were lost in the fire however the structure had to be boarded up as the neighbor informed unscrupulous persons had started stealing from the fire ravaged home. This media house was also informed By a friend of the 7-year-old’s father that the man was deeply saddened and had not yet come to grips with the death of his son. Police continue to investigate the baffling incident. A special account has been established in the Burt family name at the local National Bank for those wishing to provide financial assistance and neighbours are receiving food and clothing items for the family.
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