Investigators on Thursday were still trying to determine what caused a fire that killed four children, including an infant, a day before the family of seven was set to move out.
But it could be days before they learn what happened inside the Conyers duplex.
The children’s mother survived after tossing one child to safety and attempting to save the others.
But Darnell Glass, who will turn 6 on Saturday, still didn’t know that his three brothers and older sister were dead.
His mother, Ms. Reba Glass, learned the devastating news early Wednesday morning at Grady Memorial Hospital, where she is being treated for second and third-degree burns over 40 percent of her body.
“She sat up in bed and started screaming for her kids,” said Ms. Chante Hullum, Ms. Glass’ cousin, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Before learning the truth, Ms. Glass believed her children had made it out alive, Ms. Hullum said.
And they had, according to the Rockdale County Fire Department’s spokeswoman Ms. Tonya Parker. But they all died at the scene a short time later.
At 11:05 p.m. Tuesday a neighbor across the street called 911 about the fire at 1149 Pinedale Circle, officials said.
Less than a minute later, Conyers police arrived on the scene where they found the injured mom on the ground, screaming for her babies. Her mother, Ms. Rosetta Mitchell, and her 6-year-old were also outside the home, which was engulfed in flames, police spokeswoman Ms. Jennifer Edwards said.
Investigators later learned that Ms. Glass had been upstairs with her five children when the fire broke out in the second-story bathroom or hallway.
She was asleep in one of two upstairs bedrooms with her two youngest children, 3-year-old Armoni and 7-month-old Deon.
“She woke up and there was smoke and flames,” Ms. Edwards said. “It was already out of control.”
Seven-year-old Dashawn was in another room. It’s unclear where Darnell was, but his mother was able to get to him.
“His mother threw him out the window and tried to save the others,” Ms. Edwards said. “When she was unable to do so, she proceeded to jump out the window.”
A neighbor, Rockdale County High School junior Lamonta Stroud, said he returned home a short time later to hear Ms. Glass screaming: “My babies, my babies!”
Mr. Stroud attempted to get upstairs, but his older brother pulled him back, according to the AJC. He ran to the back of the house where he heard someone banging on the second-story window. He said he spotted 10-year-old Adaria, but then she disappeared.
“I was telling them to come to the back, come to the back, but nobody came,” he said.
By then Sgt. Bill Connell, the first officer on the scene, entered the home and attempted to head up the stairs with a fire extinguisher, Ms. Edwards said.
“But the fire extinguisher was nothing compared to the flames,” she said.
Mr. Stroud said that by then the back bedroom, too, was all ablaze.
“The flames were everywhere, four to five feet tall,” he said. “I couldn’t see much, just smoke.”
Rockdale County Fire and Rescue arrived minutes later to find heavy smoke and fire coming out at least two windows, one on the back side.
They entered the home, went upstairs and extinguished the fire while another crew retrieved the children and brought them out to try to revive them.
“When the children were brought out, they were alive,” Ms. Parker said. “But they died soon after.”
Darnell, who complained of shoulder pain, was treated and released at Children’s Healthcare at Egleston, Ms. Parker said. His grandmother was treated at the scene.
Darnell is in the care of his father, also named Darnell Glass. He and Reba Glass are separated, they said, and he is not the father of the two youngest children, according to media reports.
Conyers Police and Rockdale fire investigators are still trying to piece together exactly what happened.
They have already spoken to the grandmother, who was downstairs when the fire started. But they believe the mother will be able to provide a more complete picture of what happened inside the home.
Relatives say Ms. Glass is still in shock. “She’s kind of in and out. One moment she’s calm and then crying,” Ms. Glass’ sister-in-law, Ms. Santana Baker told the AJC. “She has lots of burns, on her back, forehead, the inside of her hands, her arms and legs.”
“All she’s saying is, ‘My babies, my babies. My babies are gone.’”
Adaria loved to dance and was known for her hugs, Ms. Baker said. Dashawn was laid back.
His little brother Amoni “kept everything alive,” said Ms. Baker, who also lives in Conyers. “He was the little, big brother” to the baby, Deon, who was born three months premature, she said.
The family is still trying to figure out how to break the news to Darnell, who loved playing basketball, football and video games with his brothers.
“That’s something we haven’t sat down and talked about,” Ms. Hullum said. “I know it’s going to be difficult to tell him what happened to his brothers and sister. Hopefully we can break it down in some way he can understand.”
A community prayer service has been scheduled for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Macedonia Baptist Church, 1052 Barton Street in Conyers.
A Conyers funeral home, Levett & Sons, has offered to handle the funerals at no cost for the four children, county officials said.
A memorial service for the children will be held Jan. 19 at 11 a.m. at Macedonia Baptist Church.
A Glass Family Memorial Fund has been set up with Wells Fargo with account number: 1009683226.
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