Mother Drops Child to Waiting Neighbor at MO Apartment Fire

Dec. 1, 2021
A mother tossed her 3-year-old child from a second-story window to a neighbor below during a St. Louis apartment fire.

Nov. 30—ST. LOUIS — A neighbor caught a 3-year-old girl tossed by her mother from a second-floor window Monday morning as flames spread inside an apartment building in the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood.

Arnez Merriweather, 30, caught the child while standing outside the Hillvale Apartments, 5830 Selber Court, about 9:30 a.m. Monday. Merriweather lives at the complex in a building next to the one on fire.

Black smoke billowing from the eight-unit building was so thick that Merriweather and others couldn't get into a hallway to enter the complex.

"We (were) yelling at the windows to tell people to get out, and a woman came to the window and tossed the baby," Merriweather said.

Merriweather called her a baby, but the child is actually 3 years old. After being rescued, the child, Tayliah Williams, clung to her mother, Latisha Williams, as they were taken to an ambulance for treatment of minor injuries. An older woman also was taken to a hospital for evaluation.

Five people in all were rescued. Two of the five declined treatment, officials said. All were rescued before firefighters arrived.

Once the blaze was extinguished, Merriweather spent several minutes at the scene talking with a fire official about what had happened.

St. Louis fire Capt. Garon Mosby lauded the heroic measures taken by the neighbor. Mosby gathered information at the scene and spoke to many witnesses who confirmed what Merriweather said.

"This young man was pretty instrumental in coordinating the rescues of several occupants," Mosby said. "It's good in the times we live in, when people are concerned with 'likes' and clicks and follows, that someone took action to better the situation."

The cause of the one-alarm fire is under investigation. It started in a vacant, boarded-up unit, and arson investigators are helping in the probe.

Merriweather sells mattresses for a living. He said he is physically fit, jogs five miles every morning and grew up playing sports. His sister woke him by banging on his door Monday morning to tell him the adjacent building was on fire.

When he looked up and saw the mom dangling the child from a second-floor window, Merriweather said he screamed up to the mother: "Just drop her."

"I was calm," he said. "I caught the baby and handed her off" to someone else.

Merriweather then saw the child's mother crawl out the window. She let go. Merriweather and a man with one arm helped support her fall. Then Merriweather and other residents grabbed a ladder from a maintenance crew's truck and helped bring others out of the building.

"Everyone was frantic," he said.

The aunt of the child he caught was also on the second floor, yelling for help.

"She was scared," Merriweather said. "She felt she was going to fall. I had to calm her down. We both came down the ladder."

Someone handed him a second child, Merriweather said, and he helped bring that child safely down the ladder.

"Adults started coming down the ladder," he added.

The complex is near Goodfellow Boulevard and Natural Bridge Avenue.

Merriweather said he's proud of what he did.

"I always wanted to help people," he said.

Robert Cohen of the Post-Dispatch staff contributed to this report.


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