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Boy, 3, dies in fire

By NALINEE SEELAL Friday, May 30 2014

click on pic to zoom in
DEAD: Xavier de Freitas, three....
DEAD: Xavier de Freitas, three....

A MOTHER of nine could only watch helplessly late Wednesday night while raging flames engulfed her Production Avenue, Sea Lots house and taking the life of her three-year-old son Xavier de Freitas who remained trapped in the burning structure.

Bernadine Hepburn, 41, was inconsolable yesterday as she hugged her other eight children and looked in a daze at the ruins of her home. Fire, police and TT Electricity Commission (TTEC) investigators believe a power surge from an electrical chord extension, may have caused the blaze.

According to police reports, at about 11 pm on Wednesday, Hepburn and her nine children whose ages range from three to 18, were asleep at their home when they were awakened by the crackling sounds of fire.

When Hepburn made a check she realised the roof of the house was on fire. She raised an alarm and called out to her children. Hepburn rushed her children out of the burning house. Unknown to her, little Xavier was still inside the house, which by this time, was engulfed in flames.

It was only when Hepburn did a headcount of her children, that she almost collapsed. Xavier was not among her children outside the house.

Hepburn and her neighbours tried to get into the burning house to try and rescue Xavier, but the fire was too intense. Firemen, who arrived on the scene later, discovered the tiny charred, unrecognisable remains of Xavier.

A weeping Hepburn told Newsday when the fire started, she called Fire Headquarters at Wrightson Road and two other fire stations for assistance.

She claimed that persons who answered the phone at Wrightson Road, terminated the call. She further added that fire officers from the two other fire stations informed her because Sea lots was a crime “hot-spot” area, they needed a police escort, for them to respond. She says if the firemen had responded in a more timely manner, little Xavier might still be alive.

“As if losing my son wasn’t bad enough, my children and I are now homeless. All of my children’s belongings were destroyed in the fire. This is too much for me,” she cried. Hepburn said she works as a waitress and cleaner to make ends meet.

She thanked her neighbours for assisting and comforting her in time of need. Xavier’s father Brian de Freitas told Newsday his son was loved by everyone who knew him and the death is a big blow.

He said his son usually lived next door with a cousin and was unsure how Xavier ended up spending the night at his mother’s home when the fire broke out. “Right now I am in a daze. I have just lost my son and my house. I do not know how to cope with this,” de Freitas said. Officials from the TT Electricity Commission (TTEC) as well as Fire Headquarters carried out several checks which pointed to an electrical surge which may have been caused the fire.

Contacted for comment, Divisional Fire Officer Clebert Grayson told Newsday by the time officers arrived on the scene the house was already gutted and officers engaged in damping operations to prevent the fire from spreading to other homes.

He confirmed that officers found burnt extension cords at the scene and added that investigations are continuing.

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