By Ramona Luthi
Social Protection Minister Volda Lawrence and Director of Childcare Protection Agency (CPA) Ann Greene at a press conference on Friday accepted full responsibility for the tragic fire which claimed the lives of two young children on Thursday evening at the Hadfield Street Drop-in Centre.
At the press conference were the two Social Service assistants Sandra Jones and Rupert Hinds, who were in charge of the 31 children at the Drop-in Centre on that fateful evening. They were given a chance to describe the events leading up to the demise of Antonio George, 6, and Joshua George, 2.
According to Jones, who was in charge of the girls’ department at the upper flat of the centre, she noticed sparks emanating from a nearby electrical wire which quickly erupted into a flame and spread into an uncontrollable blaze. It was highlighted that she immediately began awakening the girls, who then rushed out of the burning building to safety, while she tried to battle the flames with the fire extinguishers.
“I was in the dorm upstairs and the girls already drop to sleep and whilst sitting down, I noticed the electrical wire on the wall start giving this whizzing sound, and next thing I know, there’s a big bunch of fire all over the place. I wake the girls up and try to save as much of them as I can. I saved all my girls. I got out all of the girls,” she related.
Hinds, the boys’ social service assistant voiced his recollection of the night, highlighting that Jones alerted him of the fire and so he tried to get the boys to safety, and then moved to assist Jones in taming the fire. “The elder child didn’t reach outside. He was still in the building. Maybe he might have gone back to get his brother” Hinds related.
Investigations are currently ongoing to determine exactly what caused the fire and the deaths of the two boys.
According to the director of the Child Agency, the two children along with their three other siblings were taken into care on Wednesday by the CPA, in anticipation of an investigation into the alleged neglect and abuse of the children. She relayed that as per routine, the CPA took the children for medical attention the following day and it was confirmed that the children were victims of neglect and maltreatment.
Speaking on behalf of the Ministry, Greene relayed that the Ministry of Social Protection would take full responsibility for the tragic incident and bear the full cost of the funeral for the young children.
Minister of Social Protection Volda Lawrence who recognised this incident as very heartbreaking, noted that while many fire prevention measures were implemented, including fire extinguishers, sand buckets and more importantly the training of staff, prior to the fire, there was more that could have been done.
She also highlighted that this tragic incident has been an eye opener and there is an intention to provide “safe spaces” for children within the various centres soon.
“This morning, when I got there, I realised, that we did not have a safe space for those children in the case of evacuation, not only from fire, but flood, earthquake, anything and perhaps in going forward this is one of the things we can look at,” the Minister pointed out.