HOUMA, La. - Three children are dead and seven people are hospitalized after an early Christmas morning fire in Houma.
It happened around 2:30 a.m. in the Whispering Oaks Trailer Park.
The blaze claimed the life of a 12-year-old girl, Jasmin Mejia, and her 9- and 11-year-old brothers, Josue and Rommy Mejia. Seven others are hospitalized, including the children's father, Santos Mejia. He is in critical condition at Baton Rouge General’s Regional Burn Center after running back into the burning home, desperately trying to save his children.
“He said the only thing he can remember is his little girl saying, ‘Papi, ayudame.’ And that means in English, ‘Papi, help me,” said neighbor Chantel Guillott.
Guillott said the flames stretched over the roof of the home. She ran to do whatever she could for help.
“I got socks and shoes for the lady who was walking and crying, the one who lost her children,” she said. “They didn't want any help for them. They only wanted help for their kids.”
The kids and their parents were in town from Alabama, visiting family for Christmas. Of four siblings, only one survived.
“The daddy, at first he thought he lost all four of his kids, he had four of them. And then come to find out, he found one of his little boys in somebody else's lap, and he fell down to the ground crying,” said Guillott. “It was really sad.”
The two adults who live in the trailer survived with their four children. The children are being treated for smoke inhalation.
The home had no working smoke alarm. It was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.
“I felt the heat. It was so hot,” Guillott said.
Investigators say the fire started in the living room where the three kids were sleeping. Officials are investigating whether space heaters or candles, both of which were in use throughout the home, caused the blaze.
“I've been doing this for 27 years. and it just seems every holiday, particularly Christmas, we have multiple fatalities,” said State Fire Marshal Butch Browning.
The tragedy is even more painful on a day meant for celebration.
“There was actually a pastor in this trailer before midnight, prayed with them for a prosperous and happy New Year. And then this tragedy occurred,” said Browning .
Now, neighbors are praying for the family who lost everything, and for whom Christmas will never be the same.
“I stayed out here for an hour praying, find peace even in a time like this,” said Guillott. “I know they're going to hate Christmas for the rest of their life.”
The Louisiana Fire Marshal's Office says you should make sure you have a working smoke alarm in your home. If you can't afford one your local fire department can install one for free.
To find out more, click here.