‘This is all I have left’ Father Says Holding Baby, After Motel Fire Kills Six Family Members
A father who lost five of his children and his wife in a Michigan motel fire, stood outside the burning building, unwilling to release his only surviving child from his arms.
Samuel Curtis was staying with his partner, Kiarre Curtis, 26 and her six children in a room at the Cosmo Extended Stay near Benton Harbor.
Samuel Curtis was the father of some of the children who died, as well as the surviving one-year-old, Robert Boyce chief deputy at the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office said.
The deceased were identified as Kiarre Curtis; Marquise Thompson, 10; Gerome Randolph, 7; Samuel Curtis, 5; Savod Curtis, 4; and Avery Curtis, 2.
Cassandra Clements, a resident at the motel, said that she tried helping Samuel Curtis as he stood outside the burning motel.
“I tried to get the [surviving] baby from the man in case he fell down, but he wouldn’t give up the baby,” Clements told WSBT. “He said ‘This is all I have left.'”
First responders said that they struggled to handle the six deaths.
Scene of fire at Berrien County motel that killed 5 kids, 1 adult, all from same family. One resident: "The end of the building exploded. The glass shattered out and there was big whoof of flame." Full story here: https://t.co/Dafl591KHl pic.twitter.com/gHiOaz4F7i
— South Bend Tribune (@SBTribune) July 28, 2018
“It’s tragic. It tears at your heart,” Boyce said, reported the Associated Press. “Any time you have children, it’s worse. When it’s multiple children, it’s even worse.”
“His whole world’s been turned upside down,” the chief deputy added.
Family members and friends praised Kiarre Curtis and her children.
“[Kiarre] was amazing,” Stephanie Martensen, who considered herself a member of Curtis’ family, told WSBT.
“For growing up in foster care and having some hard trials in her life, she made the best of a bad situation. She worked hard and she did everything she could to make a better life for herself and her kids.”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 28, 2018
“They never talked back, perfect,” motel resident, Dartagnan Taylor said of the children, South Bend Tribune reported. “It breaks my heart that I ain’t going to see them no more, that’s a shame.”
Clements told WSBT that one child, she believes the oldest, nearly made it outside but was killed just nine feet from the exit door.
“At the bottom of the corner of the stairs right here is the biggest kid … he tried to make it out on his own, he was only about nine feet from the door,” she said.
A call about the fire came into dispatchers around 1:45 a.m. Saturday morning but by the time firefighters arrived the entire motel was ablaze, with many residents already having fled outside, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department said in a press release.
The entire building was evacuated. Officials said 27 rooms were occupied at the time of the fire.
The sheriffs and other investigators announced that the fire started in room 135 and was accidental. The Curtis family was in a room on the second floor; the cause of death for the mother and five children has been confirmed as smoke inhalation.
The surviving father and baby were treated for smoke inhalation at the hospital and released, as were six others — a combination of residents and first responders.
The sheriff’s office also said that investigators are examining the motel’s fire alarms and smoke detectors after some residents said many of the alarms and detectors didn’t work.