Child dies in apartment fire
A 1-year-old boy was found dead Thursday after a blaze at the Pelican Bay Apartments in Crystal River.
By SUZANNAH GONZALES, Times Staff Writer
St. Petersburg Times
published September 5, 2003


CRYSTAL RIVER - A boy who would have turned 2 later this month died in a Thursday morning fire.

Johnathan Lee Squires was sleeping in the back of apartment H2 of the Pelican Bay Apartments, formerly the Greenleaf Forest Apartments, on West Arms Drive in Crystal River.

Between 7:45 and 8 a.m., the boy's mother, Carol Verniece Squires, 23, left the apartment with Joseph Malatt, 18, to get coffee at a Race Trac service station, authorities said.

When Squires returned a few minutes later, the apartment was on fire and others who had been inside were exiting.

Squires parked her car and, knowing that Johnathan was in the back of the apartment, ran around to the rear.

"The fire was already too intense. She couldn't get in," Citrus County Sheriff's Lt. Joe Eckstein said.

After extinguishing the blaze, fire officials went inside and found the boy dead, Eckstein said.

Carol Squires, who suffered from hyperventilation, was transported to Seven Rivers Community Hospital, Eckstein said.

The adults inside the apartment - Lisa M. Ellis, 21, and Nathan R. Malatt, 19 - escaped injury. Squires' other children inside - Tyler, 4, and Kyle, 3 - also escaped injury.

Before the fire, everyone in the apartment was sleeping except for Tyler, who had just been dropped off by a grandparent.

The Sheriff's Office and the state Fire Marshal's Office are still investigating how and why the fire started.

Volunteer firefighters from the Connell Heights and Crystal River departments responded to the scene.

The apartment appeared to be totaled from the fire, Eckstein said, and an apartment next door also had some damage.

Before fire officials arrived, some residents discharged their fire extinguishers, according to Pamela Borton, president of the management company that operates the complex.

Borton also said steps were being taken to secure the apartment building.

"It's a tragic loss for our management family. Our hearts go out to the family of the loved one," Borton said.

- Suzannah Gonzales can be reached at 860-7312 or sgonzales@sptimes.com