A St. Louis mother desperately tried to save her five children after a devastating apartment blaze on her birthday.
The fire broke out in the early hours of Friday morning in an apartment where they had been staying with their mother and grandparents after their last home burned down just five months ago.
The mother of the children, 34-year-old Sabrina Dunigan, left home to drive someone to work and left the children alone at home. When she returned she discovered the home engulfed in flames, authorities said.
She tried to run into the burning building several times to save her children but was unsuccessful.
Five crews from the East St. Louis Fire Department arrived to find two of the children dead inside a bedroom and three other children unconscious on the floor.
Two of the unconscious children died as firefighters were rushing them out of the building. The fifth child died on the way to the hospital, St. Clair County Coroner Calvin Dye said.
The victims were identified as nine-year-old Deontay Dunigan, seven-year-old twins Heaven and Nevaeh Dunigan, four-year-old Jabari Johnson, and two-year-old Loyal Dunigan, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The children’s maternal grandparents – Greg Dunigan and his wife, Vanicia Mosley – had been sleeping in a sectioned-off room away from the kids, the grandfather told the Post-Dispatch.
Greg Dunigan told the paper he tried to get to the children but the flames were too strong. He and his wife, who is blind, jumped out a back window to safety.
Family members told KSDK News that the tragedy took place on Dunigan’s birthday.
Sabrina Dunigan, who works with her father trimming trees, was a single parent.
The family had lived in the apartment for a short time after another home burned down five months ago, neighbours said.
The whole family escaped injury in that blaze.
Their current one-bedroom unit had reportedly been converted by the family to house the whole family.
On Monday, friends, neighbours and community leaders gathered at the Greater St. Mark’s Church of God and the grounds at Sunset Gardens of Memory Cemetery on Saturday for memorial services they helped pay for.
The family welcomed the large crowd and members of the media who attended Saturday’s services. Empowerment of Grace, a St. Louis church, also live-streamed the three-hour service on its Facebook page, where as many as 260 people were watching at times.
They were all laid in pink customised coffins with their photos printed on them.