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FATHER, SON DIE IN FIRE

By STACY MOORE Sunday, December 8 2013

click on pic to zoom in

UNABLE to cope with the separation from his wife, a father yesterday set his family home on fire, burning himself and one of his two teenage sons alive. His other teenage son is warded at the San Fernando General Hospital in serious condition.

It is suspected that Christopher Joseph, 40, poured an inflammable substance on himself, Josiah Joseph, 16 and Jelani Joseph, 17, before setting the house afire at Semper Street, Gasparillo early yesterday morning.

The teenage brothers, already suffering burns about their bodies, were able to jump through a window from the burning house but Jelani did not survive. A form four student of the Ste Madeleine Secondary School, Jelani was pronounced dead at the San Fernando General Hospital. He had sustained burns to about 90 percent burns of his body. His charred remains were found under the rubble of the family’s home by fire officers.

Josiah, the younger sibling and a form four student of the Gasparillo Secondary School, suffered burns to his legs. He remains warded in serious condition at the hospital.

According to police reports, the fire started at about 1.30 am.

Relatives said Joseph and his wife, Tarika Mckain, separated approximately two months ago. Joseph had been pleading with his wife to return home but his efforts were unsuccessful, Sunday Newsday learnt. Reports are that in the wee hours of yesterday morning, Mckain received a telephone call from Joseph in which he threatened to kill himself and their children.

Since the separation the couple’s children have been staying with their mother in Pleasantville but would often visit and spend nights with their father in Gasparillo. After receiving the devastating phone call, Mckain contacted Joseph’s mother, Maureen Thomas, who lives a stone’s throw from her son on Semper Street. Reports are that Thomas rushed out of her house and as she neared her son’s house, she began smelling petroleum.

A neighbour reported that Thomas said as she got to the door, there was a heat and when she tried to open the door, she found it locked, but she pulled again and flames blew out at her. The neighbour said Thomas got burnt on both her legs but still called out to her grandchildren, Jelani and Josiah, who she could hear calling out for help from inside the burning house.

Yesterday, a weeping Thomas would only say to Sunday Newsday, “You don’t know the kind of pain I am feeling right now. You don’t know. My son and my grandchildren trapped inside a burning house. It hurts from deep inside.”

Neighbours, on hearing the screams, rushed to help Thomas at the scene of the burning house. The teenagers’ grandfather, Joseph, who also lives nearby, was able to get the boys to jump from a window located to the back of the house.

Josiah was the first to jump from the window, neighbours said but the blaze continued to spread rapidly

“By the time it was Jelani’s turn to jump, it was too late. When he jumped his entire body was on fire,” said a cousin of the brothers yesterday..

Also a teenager, the cousin said Jelani and Josiah were like his brothers.

“I watched my cousin on fire moving. And we tried to get him away from the burning house and out the fire on him. He lay on the floor gasping for breath and his whole body was white like a chicken. There was no skin left, ” he said.

With tears in his eyes, he said:

“I held his hand and kept telling him hang in there and everything was going to be alright and he just lay on the floor struggling to gasp for breath. I don’t know how to feel again.Why?” the cousin said.

Neighbours described Joseph’s actions as “shocking” and “unbelievable”.

Reports are that Joseph was recently diagnosed with diabetes and was warded at the hospital when he began experiencing problems with his sight and that it was during this time that he and his wife became separated.

Police officers of the Gasparillo Police Station are continuing investigations.

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