Conflicting reports prevent rescue attempt as 12-y-o perishes in fire
Anthony Hugh had scheduled a beach trip for this weekend to allow bonding time for his daughters, one of whom is visiting from overseas. However, those plans were painfully uprooted on Thursday after 12-year-old Liah Hugh perished in a house fire...
Anthony Hugh had scheduled a beach trip for this weekend to allow bonding time for his daughters, one of whom is visiting from overseas. However, those plans were painfully uprooted on Thursday after 12-year-old Liah Hugh perished in a house fire.
The grade seven Kingston High student was reportedly asleep about 11 a.m. when fire of unknown origin gutted her home on Giltress Street in Rollington Town, Kingston.
Sweating profusely at the scene in the aftermath of the tragedy, Hugh was overcome with emotions as he waited for the undertakers to retrieve his daughter’s charred remains from the burnt structure
He said his daughter, with whom he shared a close bond, was excited about their planned beach flex.
‘Tony’, as he is affectionately called, told The Gleaner: “Sunday was the last I spoke to her. We have a connection; we tight … . She have a sister come from foreign and mi carry her over there fi see her sister, but because of school, mi bring her back because me nuh want her stop from school.”
He further disclosed that he had been second-guessing plans to take Liah in his care and custody.
“Me and her mother spoke and mi say to her that the sister a go weh back Tuesday and me want dem fi go beach come Sunday … . I was looking forward to the beach trip ... . Mi want she and her sister fi have a close bond,” the father of seven told The Gleaner.
He was at his house when he got the call that would turn his world upside down.
“Mi reach home and say mi a go cook some food and mi hear me phone ring and a she (Liah’s mother) and she say, ‘Tony, something bad happen’, and me say, ‘What happen?’,” he recalled. “She say the house bun dung with Liah in a it.”
The Gleaner understands that it was consultation day at Liah’s school on Thursday, and having collected her report on Wednesday, she was home for the day.
“She get her results yesterday and a pure As, and today (Thursday), she come bun up. A first she come in her class and she just start,” a family friend said in disbelief.
Hugh desperately searched for answers at the scene, but none was forthcoming.
“A carelessness,” he eventually said. “She alone in a the house and memba house big. Mi nuh understand. She is 12, but ... she can do anything. She is not no fool. Dem people here can tell you.”
Residents of the community were also stunned at the tragic death of the promising child.
“If she did ever bigger, she could a run fi MP (member of parliament) and win. She coulda run for councillor and win. Everybody in a the community know Liah and love her. Right now, everybody weak. When you talk about manners, a Liah. When you talk ‘bout helpful, a Liah,” one woman said.
Natasha Francis, one of Liah’s sisters who lived with her, said they last spoke on Wednesday night and shared a humorous conversation.
“She is very helpful, kind, jovial and everything in a one,” Francis said tearfully.
Kingston Eastern Member of Parliament Phillip Paulwell, Kingston Mayor Delroy Williams, and other political leaders visited the home and offered condolences to the bereaved family.
Some residents believe that a moment of conflicting reports on Liah’s whereabouts while the fire was raging may have sapped valuable time which could have been used to try to save her.
“Dem a say she nuh in deh. Dem say she gone up the road and a so dem never rush in. Nobody could a say dem see her go up the road and a next person a say dem hear somebody a scream for help. When the fire done and dem go check, dem see her lay down like she a sleep,” one resident who rendered assistance told The Gleaner.
“It take a village fi raise a child. What going to happen when it come back around and fi dem children need help? So much people deh here and nobody to help her,” one elderly resident argued, chastising those who were more concerned with capturing videos of the burning house.
The Rollington Town Fire Station, which is in proximity of the home, dispatched a team after an alarm was raised just before noon.
The fire crew seemed baffled after Liah was confirmed dead.
Firemen could be seen wandering in the yard, appearing dazed and defeated, as the crowd converged along the roadway.
The Rollington Town police are probing the inferno.