Friday, November 09, 2001

Toddlers rescued from fire




By Sheila McLaughlin, The Cincinnati Enquirer
and David Eck, Enquirer Contributor

        LEBANON — Two toddlers who were pulled from a burning apartment building Thursday morning had been left alone while their parents worked at a local factory, fire officials said.

        Aracely Lara, 2, and her brother, Mario Lara, 3, were airlifted to Children's Hospital, where Aracely was listed in serious condition and Mario's condition was critical.

        A detective and a neighbor crawled through thick black smoke at 7:45 a.m. to rescue the children from the three-family building at 445 E. Silver St.

        Fire Chief Michael Hannigan said fire investigators were told that the children's parents left them alone while one reported to work and the other got off shift at a Lebanon business.

        “Both parents work shift work and one has to be at work before the other one gets home,” he said.

        He did not name the parents.The parents were at the hospital with their children Thursday afternoon.

        Police Chief Ken Burns said investigators want to interview the parents and other witnesses before deciding whether child endangering charges will be filed.

        “There are allegations being made, but we don't know if they're true or not,” Chief Burns said. “Our understanding is that there may have been a baby sitter ...”

        He said the couple reportedly worked at Lebanon Plastics. Company officials declined comment.

        The fire was ruled accidental and started in the area of an entertainment center, Chief Hannigan said. Damage was estimated at $50,000. The cause is still under investigation by the state fire marshall's office.

        “We know where it started but we're not 100 percent sure of what started it,” he said.

        Lebanon Detective Don McKinney, one of the first on the scene, said flames where shooting from the front room of the first-floor apartment as firefighters and police arrived.

        Neighbors were screaming that there were children inside. Woody Pounders told Detective McKinney that he could hear them in the rear of the building.

        Together, he and Detective McKinney kicked in the back door and began searching on their knees through the thick haze. They found the children lying unconscious in a hallway near the kitchen in the back of the apartment and pulled them out to safety, Detective McKinney said.

        “They were just moaning a little bit. You could hear them making just little noises,” he said.

        There was no fire in the room where they were found. The children appeared to have suffered smoke inhalation, he said.

        Detective McKinney, 46, the father of a 9-year-old son, said he didn't hesitate to run into the burning building.

        “When you have children, you do for those people what you hope somebody would do for your own,” he said.

       



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