HARVEY - An international storyteller, award-winning children's book author, and mother of two, died Monday evening after trying to escape a fire in her bedroom.
Dianne Casas, 47, started the international initiative designating November as Picture Book Month. That was from her love of writing for children and traveling the world to perform her storytelling. Tuesday evening, her life was ended, when the bedroom in her Harvey home went up in flames.
Monday, Casas could be seen spending time in front of her home, where she and neighbors had a fun afternoon watching the solar eclipse. Just hours later, neighbors were calling her name with no response.
The family believes Dianne Casas was relaxing in her room, or maybe the bathtub, when on the phone with her teen daughter, she yelled, 'The house is on fire.'
Gary James, Casas' brother, showed an Eyewitness News crew a dresser where his sister often kept a candle. The candle was burned in half. He believes the location is where the fire started. Casas may have been trapped in the area. There were signs that she tried to escape. The fire, seemed to only damage that part of the home.
Her brother and the family believe the candle fell into a wicker basket with scarves, and that she may have tried to escape in the bathroom.
"This is her scraping her hand down," James pointed out a print on the wall near the bathroom window.
A neighbor, who did not want to be identified, saw the scene unfold.
"Within five minutes, there were 20 JPSO deputies out here," the neighbor said.
Deputies used his garden hose on the fire and wrapped towels around their faces to try to get to Dianne, but the smoke and fire beat them back. Harvey firefighters soon arrived with heavy gear and got her to the front lawn .
"They tried frantically for a good 25 minutes to revive her. They had oxygen. They had putting the IVs. They did everything they could," the neighbor remembers.
Her heartbroken brother, a former officer, and daughter watched.
"I've seen that side. I've been on the other side and I knew when they took her out. I just broke down," said James through tears.
The coroner's office reports that the cause of death was smoke inhalation.
"I've actually had to bring her to the hospital years ago for smoke inhalation that triggered anaphylactic shock and an asthma attack from fireworks," said James about Casas' severe chronic condition.
They will remember a great mother of two daughters, who was the life of the party and who traveled the world as a storyteller performer, a prolific writer of children's books and other books under the name Dianne de Las Casas.
And they will always fondly remember her support of her daughter, Eliana, a 'Chopped Teen' (TV reality cooking show) grand champion and author too.
"We're not having a memorial. We're having a celebration of her life. She touched so many souls," said James.
"She was a beautiful person. She touched so many lives, especially as a storyteller. She traveled the world. She's been to the Philippines. She's been to, she's been to several places in Asia, Thailand, Singapore, telling stories, you know. She touched many lives, had many, you know, a big, positive impact on many people."
There is no date yet for the celebration of her life.
And as a final gift, the family is talking to LOPA, (Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency) in hopes that Dianne can be an organ donor to help others live.
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