The Paynesville Town Hall community was a scene of grief and disbelief when a fire incident left three adolescent girls dead on the night of Wednesday, January 8.
The fire, which gutted the four-room zinc shack, belonging to single-family, left the three dead while five other occupants were fortunate to escape, eyewitnesses said. Neighbors wept for their losses.
An eyewitness told the Daily Observer that the fire, which is believed to have started around 10:30 Wednesday night, might have been caused by a mosquito coil, though this is yet confirmed by the Liberia National Fire Service and the National Disaster Management Agency.
The victims included Evelyn Cooper, age 14 a 4th-grade student of the Paynesville Community school, Sonnie Flomo, age 12, a 3rd grader and Surprise Flomo, a 2nd grader, who was to turn 7 years old come January 20, 2020. Both Sonnie and Surprise Flomo were students of the Mot. Deddeh School, located in the same community.
Wilson Flomo, father to the kids, said the death of his children has left him totally frustrated and confused.
Wilson said he was told that the fire came from the room of Blessing Flomo, one of the survivors as the result of a mosquito coil she was using to prevent malaria.
“When Blessing woke up and saw that there was a fire outbreak, she called my wife (Helena, mother to the three victims) who was deep in sleep, woke and jumped outside with our last born who was beside her,” Wilson said.
“Before Helena could go back to the last room where my two daughters and the cousin were, the fire had increased that no one could even get the chance to enter the house to bring them out,” he narrated with tears running down his face.
Wilson told the Daily Observer he did not sleep at home with his family because he serves as security at night, adding: “If I was going to be home the fire could not have killed my children that I suffer for all my life.”
He said while he was at his job site in the same community, he heard a heavy noise coming from the surrounding area but did not know what was going on until he got concerned and found out it was his home.
Wilson said, “When I came to my house, I only discovered that my house was on fire. I started asking for my family I was told that my three girls got left in the fire.”
“My plan was to educate my children because I am not educated. I saw my children as my future, but they have died miserably,” he cried.
The children’s mother, Helena Flomo, wept uncontrollably as she named her three girls, one after another. She could not explain how the fire gutted the zinc shack but recalled how she suffered to educate her children she believed could have become the breadwinners for the family.
“Who will help me again? Aaaaaay 2020, da how you treating me?” Helena cried. “My three children lost from me oh… my big daughter asked me to send her to Effort Baptist, I told her that her father could not afford but she said that is the school she wanted to graduate from and I promised that I was going to make sure that she graduated from the school of her choice… unfortunately they have all died from me.”
With a heavy heart, he explained how the biological mother of one of the girls, Evelyn Cooper, died last year and she (Mrs. Flomo) had no choice but to take the girl in as her own but unfortunately, she also died in the fire.
Henry O. Williams, Executive Director of the National Disaster Management Agency said the death of the girls is a sad day again for the country, reflecting on how 27 Muslim kids who had gone to learn the Holy Quran met their untimely deaths in September 2019.
Mr. Williams expressed sympathy to the family, adding that the government is deeply concerned about such incidents that are caused by electricity, candles and mosquito coils.
He said the government and other partners will help to rebuild the home to ease the burden from the family. He added that the government will create public safety awareness to help stop reoccurrence of preventable fires.