Deadly Greenfield house blaze struck in minutes
As two young cousins took an afternoon nap, the mother of one child slipped out to pick up her son at a bus stop down the street, leaving the little ones with an adult relative who was watching television.
Lawasso Johnson, 27, walked with her young son Vernon back to their Greenfield home on Friday afternoon, and Vernon noticed smoke, a family member said on Saturday.
“They ran up there and started hollering,” said Charles Green, 52, of Rankin, a cousin of the children's grandmother. “She wasn't gone more than three or four minutes. That's how fast that fire hit. It must have been some type of electrical thing.”
Authorities have not said what caused the blaze, but the children's deaths have been ruled accidental by the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office.
Irihanna Hayward, who would have turned 4 on Saturday, and her cousin, Kamari Thomas, 4, died of acute smoke inhalation, the Medical Examiner's Office said.
The fire started on the first floor of the duplex on Mirror Street, authorities said.
Fire investigator Bryan Marrone said the cause of the fire remains under investigation.
The relative taking care of the children, Candice Pearson, jumped from a third-story window to a cement patio to escape the fire.
Pearson, 38, was undergoing surgery at UPMC Mercy, Uptown, Green said. She has back and neck injuries, he said, describing her condition as “touch and go.” A hospital official did not have information about Pearson.
Johnson, Irihanna's mother, posted on her Facebook page a picture of the girl beaming with a wide smile. Friends and relatives from as far away as California posted condolences and words of encouragement.
“Happy Birthday Baby now you and Papa can watch over the Family,” a cousin from Los Angeles posted.
The children and their mothers lived in the Mirror Street home with their grandmother, Teresa Hayward, whom Green described as the matriarch of the family and Pearson's aunt.
Neighbors described the family as private and quiet.
“They kept to themselves,” said Nancy Wright, who lives across the street. “We casually know them to say hello.”
Obbie Brown, Johnson's aunt in Los Angeles, said her niece wants to bury Irihanna in California but does not have the money to transport the body. Johnson grew up in California and has family there. Her family is trying to set up a fund to collect donations.
“She's very distraught,” Brown said. “She kept telling me, ‘I don't know what to do.'”
Green said he spoke to Hayward by phone but could hardly understand what she said because she was crying so much.
Funeral arrangements had not been made, he said. Hayward and the children's parents are staying at a hotel, he added.
“Everybody is taking it very hard,” he said. “They were good little kids.”
Luis Fábregas is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He canbe reached at 412-320-7998or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.