Residents of Garland continue to mourn the loss of six lives taken during an early morning fire that tore through a single wide mobile home on Gibbs Road Saturday, leaving death and destruction in its wake.
Sampson Medical Examiner Dr. Carl Barr, painstakingly working to identify those killed, has now released the names of three of the victims — a mother and her two young children, Anita Shenelle Robinson, 33, Tashyia Dornita Robinson, 9 and Andre Lamonte Smith, 10.
Dr. Barr said Monday afternoon that he was about halfway complete with the remaining autopsies, but he had not yet positively identified the three remaining victims — two males and another older female.
“Part of the problem is that it has been very difficult to identify them through some of the normal means, like dental records,” Dr. Barr stressed in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “But we will get this done, and I’ll get it done as quickly as I possibly can.”
Barr said the mother and her three children died from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning.
“I don’t have a cause of death for the others yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the same,” the medical examiner stressed.
Foul play is not suspected in the fire, but an investigation is continuing. Sources close to the probe have said they aren’t sure they will be able to determine the cause because of the destruction the fire caused to the structure.
Dr. Barr, who arrived at the scene in the wee hours of Saturday morning, was able to provide information on where the victims were found in the home. The young girl and an older woman, he said, were discovered in a bedroom at the end of the residence closest to the street.
The four other victims, Dr. Barr said, had been found close to what appeared to be a front door. “My thought on that is that they were probably alerted to some degree and were in the process of attempting to escape when they were probably overcome by the smoke.”
A shock wave ran through the Garland community as word spread Saturday of the fire and the six deaths.
The community’s sadness was evident at the charred remains of the home, where memorials of flowers, balloons and other gifts had been placed. Other than the gifts, police tape and empty cars are the only things left untouched by fire.
Joyce Miles, a nearby resident and family member, stated earlier that her grandson was the first to see the fire and ran across the street to try to save anyone he could. At that time, Miles said, he whole front of the house was engulfed in fire.
Garland Mayor Winifred Murphy, who was on the scene as firefighters and EMS tried to save what they could, said she knew some of those who perished in the fire, mainly the woman and mother of one of the children.
“She was very humble,” Murphy stated during a telephone interview Monday. “She mainly stayed to herself.”
Murphy said it was EMS that called her Saturday morning to inform her of the fire. She traveled to the scene where she stayed for a couple of hours, until one of the victim’s sisters could be notified and arrived.
Jim Workman, principal of Union Intermediate School, was also on the scene, Murphy said. He was the principal of at least one of the two children.
“Everyone is heart broken and devastated,” the mayor attested. “We all have our memories of each person.”
Sunday, around 40 people gathered at the home to hold a small vigil and prayer sessions for each of the families. It was at that time the flowers, balloons and other gifts were placed at the scene in memory of those who perished during the fire.
Murphy said it is the community’s hope that some type of fundraising will be done and an account will be set up to help the different families involved with various costs. At some point, Murphy said, a larger-scale vigil will be held.
Daniel Johnson, an employee of the Piggly Wiggly in Garland, said he didn’t know anyone who was involved in the fire, but just hearing customers coming into the store, the mood of the town is very somber.
“Everyone is very shocked with what has happened and sad,” Johnson said.
Subway assistant manager Valeria Devauthn shared Johnson’s sentiment. Devauthn said she didn’t know any of the victims, but felt very saddened for them and their families.
“I’m stunned,” she said. “My heart goes out to the families.”
Devauthn said she felt it was important for some type of funds to be collected to help the families.
(Editor Sherry Matthews contributed to this story. She can be reached at 910-249-4612. Follow her on Twitter @sieditor1960)