From the Belleville News Democrat, http://www.bnd.com/homepage/story/307214.html
'My heart is destroyed': Survivor describes attempt to save his family from fire
BY LAURA GIRRESCH AND MARIA BARAN
FAIRMONT CITY --Ivan Olazaran-Gomez, the lone survivor of a mobile home fire that claimed the lives of his entire family, said Thursday he will recover physically, "but my heart is destroyed."
Olazaran-Gomez was released from the hospital Thursday after treatment for the deep cuts to his arms he suffered when he broke a window and escaped from his burning mobile home Tuesday, then broke other windows and tore at siding in attempt to rescue his family.
The blaze killed his wife, Olivia Jarillo-Gomez, 24, their children, Roman Gomez, 2, and Vanessa Gomez, 4, and his wife's uncle, Joseph Jose Garcia, 54. Their home at the HavaHome Mobile Home Park, 5100 Collinsville Road, burned shortly after 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. The family had moved in Saturday.
Olazaran-Gomez stood at the site of the fire Thursday and recounted in Spanish the details of his attempt to save his family. He spoke softly, looking down at the ground.
He said he doesn't know what could have started the fire: He and his wife were sleeping when he awoke to the sound of his son crying in the next room. He asked his wife to check on the child. When she opened the bedroom door, Olazaran-Gomez could see a big cloud of smoke. He and his wife tried to run to their children, but Jarillo-Gomez quickly was overcome with smoke and passed out. Olazaran-Gomez couldn't see through the smoke, which was moving farther into the bedrooms. The flames and his inability to see prevented him from reaching his wife and children.
Helpless against the fire and losing the ability to breathe, he broke a bedroom window and climbed out. Once outside, he broke out other windows, frantically trying to reach his family, and cutting up his arms in the process.
When emergency workers pulled him into an ambulance, he saw them carry his lifeless children out of the home.
"All I could think about was trying to get them out quickly," Olazaran-Gomez said. "It wasn't possible."
Police have said a second exit in the mobile home might have saved their lives had it been usable, but it had been covered over with siding in a remodeling that likely happened years ago.
Police said the Gomez family moved into the home Saturday after paying a down payment but before applying for an occupancy permit, which would have required that the mobile home be inspected. The inspection would have caught the walled-over door and the lack of a smoke detector, police said.
Lisa Oseguera, a manager at the HavaHome park, said that the mobile home was remodeled more than four years ago. She declined to release the name of the person selling the home to the Gomez family, but the most recent owner listed in St. Clair County records is Jose Pacheko, who apparently took residence there in 1999. Pacheko couldn't be reached for comment.
The 1969-version mobile home was the oldest in the park, Oseguera said. Out of 50, it was the only one that did not two exterior doors.
The Illinois State Fire Marshal was still investigating to determine the cause of the fire Thursday. Fairmont City Fire Chief Bob Belba, Mayor Alex Bregen, and Police Chief Scott Penny could not be reached for comment Thursday. Penny has said he does not know when the mobile home was last inspected.
Teressa Garcia, who is married to Olazaran-Gomez's cousin, said Thursday that Gomez's parents and two siblings are trying to cross the Mexican border -- Olazaran-Gomez and his family are from Zacatecas, Mexico -- into the U.S. to attend the funeral, but the family has not yet been able to afford plane tickets from Texas, and they are asking for the public's help to pay for them.
The relatives never got to meet 2-year-old Roman.
Olazaran-Gomez asks the public for help in whatever way possible -- through emotional support or donations; he doesn't have enough money to bury his family, he said.
"I don't have anything to give them peace," he said.
More than 100 people gathered for a candlelight vigil Thursday night outside the destroyed mobile home, near a makeshift memorial of flowers, notes and angel statues. Voices cracked with emotion as they sang hymns and recited prayers in Spanish and in English.
Neighbor Leticia Lopez said she has sons the age of Olazaran-Gomez. "He's here by himself; he doesn't have a shoulder to cry on," she said.
Felicitas Jarillo, of Fairmont City, brought 250 candles.
"We came to show respect," he said.
Olazaran-Gomez was able to save his wedding photos and photos of his daughter, but the pictures of his son were destroyed.
"I'm just going to have to get used to the idea that they're never going to be with me again," he said.
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Thread: Sad story
04-11-2008, 05:47 PM #1
Sad storySFPD Member MABAS Division 47
Told my wife I'm at work. Told my boss I'm sick. I'm really at the fire station.
04-11-2008, 07:00 PM #2
04-11-2008, 08:15 PM #3
- Join Date
- Jul 1999
- DuBois, IL - just south of I-64 in the middle of the state
This was a bad deal. Having learned first hand how quickly a fire gets going, having only one way out is deadly.Jack Boczek, Chief
Ashley Community Fire Protection District
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