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Aug 10, 1998

Five year old clings to life after being covered in flames

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It was fortunate that there were no major fires in Belize City today as the water shortage could have led to disaster. But a day earlier not even an tidal wave could have averted the tragedy which unfolded at the corner of Jaguar and Tapir Street in the new Faber’s Road area.

The Chavarria family had just arrived at the residence of Christopher Emmanuel and Alice Williams for a Sunday barbecue, when disaster struck. A fire, which started when the charcoal was lit, not only burned everything inside the house, but also injured the chef and a five year old girl. Tonight, the Chavarria family is praying desperately for the survival of their daughter Danya Chavarria who lies in a critical condition at the K.H.M.H. According to Emmanuel, who received severe burns to his hands and feet he had just left the barbecue pit to go inside the house and when he returned, he saw the little girl on fire.

Christopher Emmanuel, Fire Victim

“I decided to have a barbecue for some friends you know, some kids and while lighting the grill – I was inside the house, the grill was on the verandah – went inside the house for some paper, leaving the two kids outside. I had a bottle with some gas on the verandah. I was using alcohol to light the fire. I can’t say if the paper fly off the grill and went nearby the bottle, I don’t know. When I got outside with the paper, I saw the little girl in a ball of fire. I tried to run and help, but I got burnt myself.”

Emmanuel’s common law wife, Alice Williams, says she was inside the kitchen when she heard the screams and ran out to see what was going on.

Alice Williams, Fire Victim

“Well, we were inside the house kneading dough with two of my other cousins, my other niece and cousins too and Chris was outside lighting the grill with the other kids, the two babies and then we heard a screaming and then run out there. We tried to get a wet towel and a wet sheet and we tried to call her and we wrap her in it and then we carried her in a vehicle to the hospital.”

Reports are that plans are being made to fly Chavarria out to the States to get urgent medical attention.

Alice Williams

“She is seriously ill. They have to take her further out to get help.”

Q: “Have you seen her in the hospital?”

Alice Williams

“Yes, I was there last night.”

Q: “How did they have her?”

Alice Williams

“She was wrapped up just like how Chris is right now. Her feet, her whole body and her face is looking very bad.”

Q: “Could she talk?”

Alice Williams

“A little. She ask for her mommy, her dad… the little girl, the little one that was with her.”

Today the fire department and police are trying to find out exactly what caused the fire. While Emmanuel has told them that the little girl accidentally dropped a gallon of gasoline on the verandah where a fire was started for the barbecue, Fire Chief Henry Baizar, says their investigation tells a different story. First of all he says it was gasoline that was used to light the barbecue coals and not alcohol as reported.

Henry Baizar, Fire Chief

“This thing is gasoline; that’s what they were using to light the fire. The fire had died down and they wanted to re-ignite the fire and they throw the gasoline into the fire and they got caught by surprise and they had to throw away. That’s the only real thing that we can come up with, because if the gasoline was on the floor there is a wooden chair on the floor, there is bag of coal on the floor and these things are intact. If the gasoline went on the floor all of these things would have burnt and the building burnt from halfway up from the window, it went up. The fire went through the window, into the bedroom and up into the ceiling.”

The fire authorities at this time are not certain as to how the young girl got burnt, but suspect she was standing close to the barbecue pit when she was covered by the burning fuel.

The house, financed by the Development Finance Corporation, was insured under its group mortgage plan.

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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