Arson in Laventille: 4 Dead

4 DEAD, 7 INJURED

By Sasha Harrinanan and Alexander Bruzual
December 21, 2011 – newsday.co.tt

CrimeScreams for help from women and children trapped in a raging fire filled the night in Trou Macaque, Laventille where four people burnt to death and seven were injured as they leapt from the balconies on the top floor of a five-storey HDC apartment building which had been firebombed.

Tenants and neighbours tried in vain to help the families living in two of the top floor apartments of Building 2, one of which had been doused in gasolene and set on fire in a deliberate attack by a brother of the occupants who lived there at about 1 am yesterday.

The inferno forced the trapped family members to risk jumping from the balconies in a desperate bid to survive. An adult woman and a teenage boy died from the fall five floors down. A ten- month-old baby girl and a two-year-old girl, left behind in one of the apartments, burnt to death.

Six others sustained severe injuries from their plummet over the balconies, while a seventh person received burns when he tried to rescue his family by racing up a flight of stairs and into one of the apartments.

The dead are ten-month-old Destiny Lara, her cousin two-year-old Denessya Campbell, her young uncle 15-year-old Akeem Young and the sole adult victim, Lisa Charles, 46, who was not related to the children. The tragedy has shocked and horrified not only, relatives and neighbours but even long time residents of Laventille. Even politicians were moved by the incident, as Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, members of her Cabinet and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley all made their way up the hill throughout the day discussing how to help the survivors and the tenants who have been displaced by the fire.

“You does see that in movies, people jumping out of a building to escape whatever horror within, but to see it in real life; it different,” said a Laventille resident, hours after the flames had burnt out and the bodies had been removed from the site.

“To see people crying out for help, desperately trying to save their lives, and that of their children, while hell rages behind them and all the while you helpless and can’t do anything to save them at all. That is a horror onto itself,” said the man, who did not want to be named.

Police detained two men, ages 39 and 35, for questioning in the fatal arson attack but were expected to release them last night pending further enquiries. Police are searching for a third man — who was said to be the main suspect for the arson.

Preliminary investigations indicate that a family feud among brothers had fatal consequences yesterday when one of them allegedly doused gasolene on his siblings’ apartment and threw a molotov cocktail at the door which burst into flames trapping the occupants.

Lisa Charles and her family lived at apartment 5-1, where the fire began before spreading across the hall to apartment 5-2 where Beverly Julien-Young, 47, her grandchildren and other relatives lived. Charles, 46, and her eight-year-old son Josiah Charles were the only ones in apartment 5-1 in which they were trapped.

Julien-Young, her daughters Felicia Young, 22, Delicia Young, 18; her sons Ashton Young, 17, and Akeem Young, 15; her grandson Kadeem Johnson, 11, and grand daughters two-year-old Dennessya Campbell, and ten-month-old Destiny Lara were also cornered by the fire in their apartment.

Other tenants of the HDC building soon became aware of the blaze, after hearing “loud bangings and screams for help” and began evacuating the complex.

However, the screams of the trapped families soon drew everyone’s attention and the tenants began to gather on the grounds outside.

Charles’ common-law husband, 39-year-old Curtis Hyde, defied all warnings from his neighbours and reportedly rushed into the inferno to try and save his family. He was unable to reach Charles or her son, and suffered third degree burns over his body.

In desperation, it was reported that Charles jumped out of the window of her apartment while holding onto her son in an attempt to break his fall. The bodies of the two slammed against the concrete, with the impact causing Josiah to bounce from his mother’s body onto the unforgiving cement. Josiah suffered a broken jaw from the impact but lived and was taken to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC), Mt Hope.

Charles received severe injuries to her head and chest and died while awaiting the arrival of an ambulance.

The Young family also attempted to escape by jumping out of their window. However, 15-year-old Akeem Young did not survive the fall. The two youngest children, Destiny and Denessya were killed in the blaze.

Julien-Young, Felicia, Delicia, Ashton and Kadeem managed to survive the fall from the balcony. Felicia is the mother of Destiny, and Delicia is the mother of Denessya.

Julien-Young and Felicia have been warded at the Intensive Care Unit of the Port-of-Spain General Hospital with burns and injuries to their bodies, Julien-Young’s sister Ingrid Julien told Newsday at the hospital. Delicia, Ashton and Kadeem were taken to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope.

“I’m just in shock. I want to know what’s happening with my family. I have been up since 1 am. I haven’t slept all day, I have been trying to figure out what happened to my family. I don’t know what’s their condition,” said Ingrid. Other relatives had gone to the Mt Hope medical facility to check on the survivors warded there.

During the day, officers led by Superintendent Don Lezama and Inspector Sahadeo Singh visited the gutted apartment building which has been cordoned off several times. Officers from the Besson Street Police Station, as well as the Inter-Agency Task Force, and the Guard and Emergency Branch were also present. Fire appliances from the Wrightson Road Fire Station, the San Juan Fire Station and the Morvant Fire Station had responded to the distress call earlier in the morning. Acting Assistant Fire Chief Gopaul also visited the scene.

When Newsday visited the scene yesterday, several residents were standing around the building looking in shock at the burnt out ruins of the top floor.

Hilton Thomas who lived at 5-4, on the other end of the fifth floor, recalled that he was jolted from his sleep when his wife woke him up and told him the building was on fire.

“All I know is that I grabbed the children and run downstairs. When I reach downstairs, I see the whole staircase and apartment 5-1 (the Charles family) was on fire. Whilst it blazing and thing, we tried to assist; calling the fire service, the police, but the fire get so out of hand, that the people in 5-2 (the Julien-Young family) also got trapped so they couldn’t come out the door,” Thomas said.

He recalled that two of the brothers had been feuding for some time, and their confrontations had even led to police intervention during the recent state of emergency. The main suspect was arrested but released a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, fellow Building Two resident and HDC Cocorite foreman, Daniel Julien, said he was so shocked by the tragedy that he froze and could not give any immediate assistance to the injured families.

“I heard pounding and my wife woke me up and told me ‘Daniel, there’s a fire’. When I came out, apartment 5-1 on the top floor was engulfed in flames. I managed to get out and came to the front of the building and when I do so and looked up I saw the lady who jumped (Charles) and her son was screaming for help,” said Julien.

“I didn’t do anything to help and this is what bothering me, I couldn’t do anything to help. They jumped while I was still trying to figure out what to do but I’m still feeling guilty.

“When she jumped, she hit her head on the side of the wall. Josiah landed on the ground, next to his mom. They both survived the fall. A guy who lives in Building One asked me to help but I was so shocked, I couldn’t lift a finger to help them. He lifted the son and put him out on the road then came back for the mother and lifted her up too and put her on the road. But about ten minutes later, she died,” Julien recalled.

Natasha Arcia, another tenant, said residents of the other buildings tried to arrange mattresses for trapped residents on the top floor who were trying to jump to safety. However, she said many began jumping in panic before help could be arranged.

Arcia also stated the entire situation could have been avoided if the apartments had been constructed with fire escapes and water tanks. The apartment building is about 50 years old.

“This is a serious thing, all those children who died there; that not supposed to be. They supposed to be here, alive, right now, so that come Monday, they could be on this court for our Christmas celebration which we as a community does have every year. But it have no water tanks, it have no fire escapes. They had no chance to survive,” Arcia noted.

She said residents had been asking for the implementation of these structures for years, however, she said they were always turned down.

“It’s 15 years now I renting and every minute we asking for HDC for help but we can’t get any,” Arcia said.

After the fire, the four bodies were taken to the Forensic Science Centre, St James for autopsies.

Michelle Julien, an aunt of the three deceased children, sobbed as she spoke of her family.

“Right now I still can’t believe it. We just in shock. I don’t even know what to say. It was my nieces and nephew. My sisters and my mother in the hospital. Right now it just hard, and I don’t know what’s going on,” Julien said. Her sister Ria sat nearby, crying, along with another relative Keisha Abraham. The women were inconsolable.

http://www.newsday.co.tt/news/0,152534.html

6 Responses to “Arson in Laventille: 4 Dead”


  • CHILDREN BURN
    An argument between Hyde and a male relative over the ownership of an apartment in Trou Macaque led to the arson attack that claimed the life of four people and an unborn child yesterday.

    Trou Macaque fire claims four lives
    …Seven injured in desperate leap for safety

    Residents jump to their deaths
    WHEN Allison James ran out of her second floor apartment at Building 2, Trou Macaque, Laventille, yesterday, all she saw were bodies scattered on the ground outside.

    Fear and anger as residents share the pain

    ’15 years we begging for a fire escape’

    Woman calls on arsonist to surrender
    “Why yuh have to let Satan make you do an act like that?”

    One suspect caught

    ‘If not for fire sub-officer, death toll would have been higher’
    FINDING a villain for the Trou Macaque tragedy is easy. Discovering the hero may be the hard part.

    Kamla tells HDC to install fire escapes
    PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar could only describe the arson attack on Building 2 at Trou Macaque, Laventille, yesterday as a “most tragic incident” which should not re-occur.

    Govt houses 20 families at Oropune
    PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last evening began handing out keys to the 20 families left homeless by the Trou Macaque, Laventille fire for homes at Oropune Village, Piarco.

    Rowley wants changes in behaviour
    Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday there are some “behavioural patterns” in the Laventille community that need to be addressed.

    A nation mourns
    WE are pained at the death of several people in an alleged arson attack on an apartment building in Trou Macaque, Laventille, in the early hours of yesterday.

    Raymond: Non-existent building codes in T&T

  • Interesting situation. Our politicians to their credit, have said all the necessary things.
    Let’s see the ground game reality, huh? Some two years ago,at the cost of some $1.5 − 3 billion-if I am not mistaken- the previous PNM regime ,staged successive major international political events, which resulted in massive clean up, near the Labasse garbage Dump / Beetham Highway, where great grand pickaneys,or rather,kids, of ex slaves resided.
    Things have now probably return to normal, and it does not take much imagination, to decipher what that entails – thank you very much.
    Not to be outdone ,South Africa with the help of Queen Maker Jack Warner, got itself a World Cup , but unfortunately the Apartheid created urban poor ,and disgruntled ,none beneficiaries of the Nelson Mandela expected bonanzas,a la sweetwater/ Soweto, were shut off to the world.
    This meant that even if the games were a success, no credible changes ,were made to the social lives of the historical victims, since sport and politics don’t mix, unless you are a white bare feet runner named Zola Budd, with English grand parents, but a different story , for another occasion.

    http://www.worldpress.org/Africa/2755.cfm

    Let’s now do a swing down to much beloved Brazil, and what do we see. A country that get’s all the global accolades for being one of few emerging states , that seem to have found the magic formula, after all they just loan the EU a couple million dollars to help them in their financial crisis. Well domestically , the country is high in expectation as they are about to get more attention as they stage both an Olympics , and World cup. Unfortunately someone must pay the price ,and it would as you guess , the poor , insignificant folks sho wer likewise great grand kids of ex slaves , that resided in the crime infested , low caste Favallas.
    Many would be removed forcefully , if need be with little if any compensation, but that’s ok, for they ,just like the folks or Troumaque Lavantille, Beetham Highway, Soweto , and Brazil ,are expendable.

    http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/favela-residents-face-eviction-world-cup-and-olympics-prep

    Many might not be able to read, write, or defend themselves against political predators, and economic con artist, much less ,brave enough to stand up bandits from within , who when disgruntled , resort to the only course of action they know best.
    As I stated , before , the public, led by the political , and media talking heads are saying the right things, but those of us in the know , are aware that this is deja vu, as we’ve been down dis road before.
    Maybe this is a new era, and one should be optimist? Decades ago when some folks in Basilon Street Belmont, were moved to Arima ,La Hocetta , Trincity ,and other unmentionable Centralized Housing Estates,- no this bunch could not afford dat- the natives from the nearby enclaves , began a cry of gerrymandering, but this is a new era, of progressive politics, so we will keep our fingers cr….., or rather , I should just quit while I am ahead.
    We wish our people well.
    Luv Hmanity.

  • Am sad to hear the news of my family hope an pray for the ones that are in the hospital to get well soon an also pray an hope the people that did this pay for there wrong doing.Life of little ones was taking for what reason over an apartment that no one can have now that is only act of santan over material things.But i really hope people learn from this an learn to stand up for what is right an start to put GOD in there life an let the people that have us in all this do what is right for us. An also not for them to wait until it happen to do something about it. This is sad news for all the YOUNG family. WE PRAY FOR THE BEST AN ASK GOD TO KEEP THEM AN LOOK OVER THEM IN THIS TIME OF PAIN.

  • I would like to find out if trauma counselling is being provided to the residents of the HDC Appartments in Trou Macaque Laventille and families of the arson victims?
    Yes, temporary accommodations is good, but we need to ‘suture the wound not put a plaster on the sore’

  • I would like to know if Trauma Counselling is being provided to the residents of the HDC Appartments in Trou Macaque who witnessed this grouesome scene and for the families of the arson victims? We need to take a long term wholistic approach. We need to ‘suture the wound, not just put a plaster on the sore.’

  • Thanks for your empathyAnne Marie Russell.
    So for folks who are 10th, and 20th generation ‘Brazilizn favalla like, post slavery residents,’ with no decent legal lands at their disposal, or deed they can take to a bank to do something holostic, like numerous others across the country can, what do you suggest is done after , the feel good discussions on a therapist couch, with either,St Anns Head Honcho Dr Bagoobalsing,much adored Chin Lee, straight Shanghai , or Pedro Gomez , one of Havana Castro ‘s o?
    Care to say when the land distribution , and housing, infrastructural enhancement policy would commence , or are we to still awaiting Sir Richard Jones, from the British Home Office, to come in like a certain White Canadian Commissioner , a la Gibbs ,to solve our problems? We know this is finger pointing time , but all our respective politicians have dirty hands , and should be hanging their heads in shame today.
    Likewise , the typically selfish , greedy corporate bums ,that constitute the local business scene, are just as culpable , as outside of daily imports of unhealthy foreign Genetically Engineered food, none have done anything worthwhile ,to invest in our people nationwide.
    Then there are the culturally immoral, cross racial/ ethnic middle class elites ,that possess no concept of what Civil Society is , unless it is to advance their narrow, nepotistic / pro crony causes.
    Not too optimistic that we have folks with that necessary acumen to appreciate the true meaning of patriotism .
    We wish our collective people well, for today ,it’s Afrikans victimized souls, on the receiving end, and tomorrow it would , …. well fill in the blanks.
    Time for less media posturing , and efforts aimed at cultivating a new win/ win paradigm, yes Anne Marie Russell?
    While Rome burns’ just tell dem for me, to ‘beware of a man / woman with nothing to loose.’

    Luv Humanity.

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