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Sep 24, 2018

Father and 3 Children Perish in Orange Walk Fire

There has been another tragic fire which has resulted in loss of life of several family members. In June, four members of the Nunez family perished in a fire in the Escalante subdivision of San Pedro. Today, the community in Orange Walk Town is reeling from a devastating fire in which a father and three children died early on Sunday morning.  Tonight the Petillo family in Orange Walk Town is mourning the deaths of four of their own after a fire trapped thirty-five-year-old Alfredo Petillo, his children ten-year-old Mia and twelve-year-old Jeda and his stepson fourteen-year-old Kevawn Clarke inside.  The family died in each other’s arms in the bathroom. The blaze broke out early on Sunday morning, destroying three houses, leaving several persons homeless and causing irreversible harm to the Petillo family.  Today, the survivors were literally picking up the pieces that are left from the rubble, clearing the space of land where the house once stood as they came to terms of their tragic loss. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports. 


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

An immeasurable loss; a father and three children are tonight dead after a fire gutted their house in Orange Walk Town early on Sunday morning. Thirty-five year old Alfredo Petillo, his daughters ten-year old Mia and twelve-year old Jeda and his stepson fourteen-year old Kevawn Clarke died together, hugging each other inside the bathroom as the fire raged at the corner of Progress and Cinderella Streets. A total of three houses were destroyed, leaving several persons with only the clothes on their backs. Today survivors like Norma and Saturinno Petillo along with their family and friends were picking up the pieces of what is left while painfully remembering the screams of the day before.


Norma Petillo

Norma Petillo, Fire Victim

“It is sad to hear how the children that perished was screaming for help and there was no one who could get inside. Seeing your own children screaming for the other kids to come out and they can’, it is very hurtful.”


Saturinno Petillo, Fire Victim


“It hurts. It hurts bad. I can’t explain it, you understand but nothing else I can say much but it hurts, deep within it hurts. Right now I am not showing it like that but it hurts.”


The fire broke out at around five a.m. One of the family’s friends took it upon himself to sprint to the Fire Department, alerting fire fighters of the blaze which was quickly spreading. Petillo first ran outside along with his common-law-wife Zelda Bowen and one of his children but when he realized that his three other children were trapped inside he returned into the burning house to save them. Unfortunately, he too was trapped. He died a hero.


Zelda Bowen

Zelda Bowen, Common Law Wife of Alfredo Petillo

“At about minutes to four, after four, he said get up, fire. He said get out. He broke the side of the barbershop and he made me and the little girl get out. He then heard the little girl at the back holler for him, he heard ‘dad’. He ran in back and did not come out, any of them. Everyone was all over the place. I tried to help the next three but we could not do anything else about it. That is the saddest thing. You know when you want to help them but you can’t help them. He tried his best because when he always tell us that if anything happens to his family, he will die with his family. He went in to try and help those three but they did not come out. But he put we out and three of them he hugged up. He died with the baby in his arm, the youngest girl and then the oldest boy had the next little girl. He managed to take them to the bathroom and broke the pipe and cover them with the sheets with the water but it still not help them.’


The family and neighbors did what they could to douse off the blaze but the flames were too high and spreading quickly.


Saturinno Petillo

Saturinno Petillo

“So I started to throw water and telling my brother and his children to come out, not knowing that they already broke the pipe in the bathroom and he hugged them to stay cool. If I only knew, I would have run through the corner and I was going to do it from there but I did not know that. When I saw where they found them, it hurt me so much. I can’t explain it. If I knew where they were I would have done something better because if it was me in there my brother would have run through that fire for me. It hurts me.”


While four invaluable lives were lost, the damaged could have been much more if the other residents did not rush out of their houses.


Saturinno Petillo

“By the time I came out of my house, I grabbed my son first, my girl grabbed the youngest baby and then she drags the next baby because she was sleeping all the time through it. By that time, I realized that Pitts ran inside back. I did not see where he went. After that I pick up my daughter from the bed because she ran inside and start cry. By the time I pick she up the entire thing fell down on the bed and I ran out. I asked Pitts’ wife where the children are. She said they were inside. So I grabbed an iron and start to hit the windows and start to holler. I heard one screams, after that nothing else.”


Norma Petillo

“I am so happy that family got out thanks to Emerson and Leslie again. It could have been worse but we are here. My family and I lost every single thing. We only stayed with the clothes in our back that morning. But I am very grateful but sadly we have to put to rest four souls that had nothing to do with it; innocent children and father that gave everything for them.”


Eventually fire fighters managed to extinguish the blaze. Investigators are working to determine what caused the blaze. Fire Chief Ted Smith told the press that the fire started on the stove.


Ted Smith

Ted Smith, Fire Chief, Nat’l Fire Service

It appears that something was being cooked on the stove, a sort of aluminum type material as it melted and flowed within the top of the stove. When that occurred, the gas station that was near and once the fire started it quickly broke the transparent tubing and created that torch. Certain types of aluminum pots if left on the stove too long and the liquid evaporated out and is not check, aluminum will melt at twelve hundred degrees so it will melt.


Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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