A 20 year old man identified as Emmanuel Chaplay, alias God Gift, died in a fire that consumed his father’s three bedroom residence in the Brooklyn Community in Gbarnga late Tuesday, July 19.
Circumstances surrounding the cause of the fire have not been established by the Crime Services Division (CSD) of the Liberia National Police (LNP) Bong County Detachment and the Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS), but eyewitnesses said the fire was caused by a candle, which Chaplay forgot to put out.
They said the fire started at 11p.m., with neighbors exerting efforts to extinguish the flames, but were prevented from entering the house since the iron doors and steel window frames erected to protect the home from burglars were all locked.
The Daily Observer learned that Chaplay, who was crying for help, said he could not locate the key to the iron door because the fire was too intense in the house.
“We fought to break some parts of the building to enter to save Emmanuel Chaplay from the fire, but we did not succeed,” explained neighbor Samuel Weedor.
According to the father of the deceased, Emmanuel Chaplay Sr., his son was alone in the partly constructed house; that he’d always used his phone’s torchlight to get around, instead of a candle, which was speculated to be the cause of the fire.
The late Chaplay was a student at the Alexandria A. Andrews Academy in Gbarnga and had been promoted to the 12th grade. He was reportedly expected to travel to the United States at the end of the 2016/2017 school year.
The victim’s father blamed witchcraft for his son’s death, though he could not explain the details of his claim, especially regarding who may have been involved in the witchcraft activity that resulted in the death of his son.
He denied his son being a habitual consumer of alcoholic beverages.
Meanwhile, the charred remains of the late Chaplay were laid to rest yesterday at the Gbarnga Cemetery.
Many residents have described his death as painful, and attributed the cause of his demise to the lack of equipments to break into the house to save him and “the ineffective LNFS personnel assigned in the county.”
“If the Fire Service was equipped with fire trucks and other firefighting machines, this man would not have died in this fire because the time the fire gutted the house was still early,” a resident said.
It was gathered from the neighbors that the father of the victim is a prominent businessman in Gbarnga.
Liberia National Police and the LNFS Bong County Detachment in a joint statement said they are conducting preliminary investigations to establish the cause of the fire.
LNFS Bong County Commander David Flomo admitted that the lack of firefighting equipment and a vehicle to patrol the county remains a major challenge for his detachment.