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Aug 7, 2017

Toddler Tarique killed as flames crush four homes on Santa Barbara Street

Tarique Roberts

Sometime after nine on Sunday night a fire in Belize City claimed the life of toddler. He was left home alone when a fire started at his house and neighbours were unable to get him out because he was locked in when his mother went to the shop to buy. The fire claimed the baby’s life, and also left four families with their homes. There is not much known about the fire itself and our requests to the Fire Department have gone unanswered. But what we have gathered is that neighbours saw a spark at the house where the fire started and many tried to put out the blaze but it was too much to contain. Today the neighborhood is still reeling from the deadly fire. Andrea Polanco was out on Santa Barbara Street today to find out more. Here’s that story.

 

Selina Young, Neighbour

Selina Young

“The baby mi deh in deh the cry; bawl fi help. The baby mi di cry fi help.”

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

But no one could help Baby Tarique Roberts. Tragically,he perished inside his home on Sunday night. The twenty-month-old toddler was left alone at home sleeping in his bed – when the fire started inside his family’s home on Santa Barbara Street – it would spread to other houses in the same yard displacing four families. But inside the house where it started, a baby boy was locked inside. His mother, twenty-year-old Shanika Roberts,locked him inside before she went to the shop. And so when the fire started no one was able to save him – neighbours say the baby screamed as the home went up in flames.

 

Phillip Leslie

Phillip Leslie, Family Friend

“It was tragic. I really feel it fi the little boy because I love the little boy. When time I come from work the lee bwai would run to me because he thinks I am the father. He only know me as the man figure. It was so. Hmmmm. I don’t know what to say. The fire man could ah do something but they took so long. The little boy was crying, crying and he so small. I don’t know what to say.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, you guys could heard him through it?”

 

Phillip Leslie

“We heard him but we couldn’t do anything because the whole house was already in flames. We got some assistance from some guys around there but they couldn’t open the door because the door was locked and so the little boy just burned in the house.”

Baby Tarique’s mother allegedly went to the shop to buy – and she was away for about fifteen to twenty minutes. Neighbours say she was with her older son at the time. On the way back, she stopped two houses down the street and shortly thereafter she was alerted of the fire. But by the time she arrived at her home, there was nothing she could do to save her baby.

 

Phillip Leslie

“The mother was so, so devastated. She couldn’t take it. Even I am too shocked right now. I still can’t believe what happened. I stay up whole night last night the cry, cry, cry. I love the lee bwai. I even watch the lee born. The mother ask me if I want see the lee bwai and that one year and eight months dah like – I wah always remember that one year and eight months. He is like my son and I take him for my son. It is a really big loss for me and his mother.”

Andrea Polanco

“Have you spoken to the mom since?”

 

Phillip Leslie

“I have spoken to her last night because she was crying and grieving. I was trying to help her and make her calm down. She is a single mother, so she like nuh really see her baby father like that. So, she is on her own and trying to raise her two sons on her own as the best she can. She gets help from her grandmother and tries to get help from other people. I try help her if I could because I know her and I know the sons because she is not working.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Why do you think she left the little boy inside? Was is because he was sleeping or is this something she always does?”

 

Phillip Leslie

“Well, last night I saw her and I hailed her and I asked her where she was going and she said the shop. The little boy was sleeping and you know you don’t want to disturb someone while deh sleeping so she had the other son. The older son with her. I hail her and she come and said something to my mom and then she went home. I told her there was a fire and she didn’t believe me at first and then she ran across.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, she was at your house when the fire started?”

 

Phillip Leslie

“Not really at my house. She was in front of my house because I live right down there. So she just. Because when I said ‘fire, fire’ she didn’t really believe dah until she see smoke. And dah then she say ‘my baby. My baby is in the house’ and I asked ah ‘serious?’ But that was it the baby had died.”

Andrea Polanco

“She wanted to go inside and take him out?”

 

Phillip Leslie

“Yes. But she couldn’t because the whole house was engulfed in flames.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“When she heard the house was on the fire what did she do?”

 

Selina Young

“She run across yah and when she run across yah same time the fire done the blaze up already and when time she gone inna the house, the smoke – as she reach the door, yes, she mi gone inna the house, and look like when time the smoke get to she, she faint.”

 

The fire started here – in this wooden bungalow where Roberts and her two young boys lived. Neighbours say the fire department was slow in responding – and by the time they did, the fire had completely burned through four wooden homes. The flames quickly spread from Roberts’ house to her grandmother’s – Thelma McKoy. She was awakened by her husband when he smelt the smoke. They tried to put out the blaze– but the fire took on a life of its own and wiped out two more houses – displacing as many as seventeen persons. They lost all their possessions and are without a roof over their heads. But the loss of her great grandson is what is at the forefront of McKoy’s mind.

 

Thelma McKoy, Grandmother of Deceased

Thelma McKoy

“I jumped up behind and ran out behind him. He went to the pipe and draw a bucket of water and he fell and that is why he is limping. But as soon as he fell, he got up back quickly and picked up the bucket and rushed towards where the fire was at. He threw the water but it just blazed.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Okay – the fire was at your grand-daughter’s house at that time and then it spread to your house?”

 

Thelma McKoy

“Yes at my grand-daughter’s house. But it didn’t spread right away. When I got downstairs I looked up at the blaze but when the fire engine came they didn’t have water. Because when the fire engine came and if they had water my house wouldn’t have gotten burnt, but my house got burned. None of the other families got hurt? Now – only your great grandson – talk to me about me how difficult that moment was with him in the house burning – and you guys not being able to help? Yes. Only grandson. It hurts. It really hurts. Because earlier that evening he was in the yard in the dark all alone riding his little bike and I said to myself isn’t he afraid of the dark? It is very sad because every time he would look up and see me he would point towards the mango tree; that means you have to get a mango to give him. He was a very bright child.  We will miss him a lot.”

 

Andrea Polanco reporting for News Five.

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