Family Member Could Face Charges in Deadly Fire

By: Eyewitness News, Press Release, Associated Press Email
By: Eyewitness News, Press Release, Associated Press Email

[UPDATE] 10-11-2011 5:40 PM

Three days after three children killed in a house fire are laid to rest, their father could face charges in their death.

Valdosta Firefighters say a pot left unattended was the cause of a fire that burned this home on Forrest Street back on Saturday October first.

Valdosta Police Commander Brian Childress says they believe the father was drinking that night while cooking then left the house without telling anyone.

"We collected all the information from the crime scene, we've collected some evidence from the scene that's been sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab. So what's next?," said Childress. "Where we're at with it right now is waiting on the evidence to comeback from the crime lab."

The father's blood alcohol level is being tested. Childress says once they get the results back, officers will meet with the District Attorney's office to discuss whether Involuntary Manslaughter charges will be filed.

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[UPDATE] 10-8-2011 7:30 PM

Using the ladders from the firetruck, firefighters remembered the three children with a flag hanging above the Union Cathedral Church.

Inside the church, Tina Hollis, the mother of Amarion, Amari and Juan walked in with tears rolling.

Valdosta fire department say a pot left unattended on the stove was the cause of the fire.

Firefighters say if the home had a smoke detector it could've prevented the deaths.

But leaders in the funeral service encouraged the family to find
comfort in God's word.

"Ye though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I feel no evil," said Bishop Wade McCrae.

"For those blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted," said Minister Eva Jones.

Even with songs of encouragement, knowing Hollis lost her three youngest boys forced her out of the church.

But when she returned the minister encouraged her to lean on her faith.
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[UPDATE] 10-5-2011 5:50 PM

27-year-old Antoine Mays woke up to the sounds of his dog barking and trying to drag him out of the bed around four Saturday morning.

He saw the smoke and immediately only one thing came to mind.

"I jumped out the bed and my first thought was where the kids, where the kids," said Mays.

He says he ran out the room and grabbed his oldest nephew who was sleeping on the couch.

But when the uncle went back in the home the smoke overtook him knocking him to the ground.

Mays says he barely made it back out but didn't give up.

The kids' uncle broke windows trying to get them but he couldn't reach them.

"It still hurts me to my heart knowing I couldn't get to them and I love them boys with all my heart. I would've died for them if I could," said Mays.

Valdosta Fire department says a pot left unattended on the stove was the cause of the fire.

Firefighters say a smoke detector would've alerted everyone.

"I just wish I had a chance to rewind time and bring them back to me, cause this right here will never leave my heart, said Mays. "I will never forget October first. I will never."

The Funeral will be held Saturday at three at the Union Cathedral Church in Valdosta.
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Tips to Prevent a Deadly Fire
[UPDATE] 10-4-2011 6:10 PM

Valdosta Fire Chief J.D. Rice calls the the deadly fire on North Forrest Street a tragedy, but says it could've been avoided.

"Had the home been equipped with a working smoke alarm those children probably would've been alive today," said Chief Rice.

He says a pot left unattended on the stove was the cause of the fire.

Rice says if a smoke detector was installed the three youngest boys, ages one, four and five could've been saved.

The Chief says a home equipped with a smoke detector increases the chance of survival by 50-percent.

Now the Valdosta Fire Department is making sure residents know the importance of having the safety tool.

Residents on Forrest Street agree.

"It could be a short in the house and if it has a short the smoke alarm will notify you," said Noel O'Neill.

On Saturday, firefighters say they'll be going from house to house in this area either checking to see if smoke detectors are working properly or installing free ones for all the residents here.
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[UPDATE] 10-3-2011 6:00 PM

It's been the hugs and love from family and friends that has given Tina Hollis the strength to keep going.

"My kids should be burying me, not me having to bury them. It's just something I wasn't prepared in this lifetime to deal with," said Hollis.

The mother of six lost three of her children Saturday morning in a deadly fire.

Hollis was working a double shift and the kids were home with their step-dad when the fire started.

"I really haven't had too much sleep. I can't eat," said Hollis. "I will give anything just to have my babies back."

Valdosta Fire Department says the fire broke out around four Saturday morning on Forrest Street.

Firefighters say a pot left unattended on the stove was the cause of the fire.

Neighbors say the step-dad tried several times to break windows to get the children out, but couldn't reach them.

The 22 year old man and a seven year old boy were able to escape, but the three youngest boys, ages one, four and five did not make it out.

"When she walked up to me and said there was nothing she could do for my three, said Hollis. "My heart just dropped and it was over then."

Close friends couldn't believe it either.

"The thought of children, my nieces and nephews being dead is like wow!" said TaSheena Burch.

The family has lost everything and the community is now trying to help. To find out what you can do, click on the link below to the mother's facebook page.

You can message her there.
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[UPDATE] Oct. 3, 2011 - Noon -

Students and teachers at a local elementary school are trying to come to grips with the death of a 5 year old student. The children died in a weekend house fire in Valdosta.

Eyewitness News has been on the phone with Valdosta City School officials all morning. They tell us that two of the children who were at that home were students at a local elementary school. The 7-year-old boy survived, but the 5-year-old girl died. School officials say they're still trying to find the best way to break the devastating news to classmates. Valdosta investigators say a 22-year-old man and the one child managed to escape the house fire caused by unattended cooking in the kitchen. The accident killed three young children. The Chief of the Valdosta Fire Department says the Saturday morning fire could have been avoided if the smoke detector had been operating properly. He said it appears smoke inhalation caused the death of the three children. Authorities did not release the names of the victims or the survivors. The blaze is under investigation.

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VALDOSTA, Ga. 10-2-11

Authorities say an adult and a child managed to escape a south Georgia house fire caused by a cooking accident that killed three children.

Valdosta Fire Department Chief J.D. Rice said the Saturday morning fire could have been prevented with a working smoke detector.

He said the blaze was caused by unattended cooking in the kitchen.

Firefighters were called to the family's home about 4 a.m. Saturday, and the blaze killed three children aged 1,4 and 5.

Deputy Coroner Walter Wacter said a 7-year-old boy and a 22-year-man escaped the fire.

He said it appears smoke inhalation caused the death of the victims.

Authorities did not release the names of the victims or the survivors.

The fire is under investigation.
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Valdosta, GA 10-1-11 10:28 a.m.

Press Release:

Unattended Cooking Incident Caused Early Morning Fire

VFD Fire Inspectors determined that unattended cooking in the home's kitchen was the cause of this morning's fire at 809 N. Forrest Street that claimed the life of three young children.

According to VFD Chief Rice, the home was not equipped with a smoke detector. Chief Rice stated that if the home had a working smoke detector, the outcome of the incident may have been prevented.

"Valdosta citizens living in homes that do not have a working smoke detectors are strongly encouraged to call the Valdosta Fire Department," said Chief Rice. "The department provides free smoke detectors to Valdosta citizens year-round and will install the equipment at no charge to residents. There is no reason for any home in our city to be without this important life-saving device."
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Valdosta, GA 10-1-11

The Valdosta Fire Department responded to an emergency call around 4:00 this morning for a house fire at 809 N. Forrest Street.

Three small children were killed.

Valdosta Fire Chief J.D. Rice says the cause of the fire is under investigation.

More information will be released when it is available.


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