Boy, 9, killed, mom in­jured

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL - By

Rhon­dor Dowlat

The mother of Sha­liner Theodore-Hospedales was on the ground crawl­ing through the un­friendly flames of a bush fire on Wed­nes­day as she at­tempted to find her nine-year-old son, Hezekiah. As she des­per­ately sought out her el­dest of two chil­dren she her­self caught fire.

As the fire caught hold of her cloth­ing and be­gan to spread about her en­tire body, her screams brought help from vil­lager Phillip Steven Jones, 27, who risked his own life by jump­ing through a ring of fire to ex­tin­guish the flames on her. “I ran back down the hill, throw three buck­ets of wa­ter on me and went back up, ran through the fire and I went to a house, pull down a cur­tain and used that to out her. She was on fire on the ground,” Jones re­called.

Jones and his younger brother, Jeremiah, 24, are now be­ing hailed by the La­hore Road, San Juan, com­mu­nity as heroes for their self­less act of sav­ing the lives of Theodore-Hospedales, her hus­band and one-year-old Rukeia Bruce.

Theodore-Hospedales’ son, Hezekiah, un­for­tu­nately did not make it out alive.

But even as his ef­forts were be­ing ap­plauded by the peo­ple in his vil­lage, Jones, who is fondly called Jerry by friends, said yes­ter­day he would do it all again if he had to but the next time he would place Hezekiah on his back while he held Rukeia in his arms.

“I kept scream­ing at them to fol­low me, fol­low me. When I saw that the fire, which had come from over the hill, spread to be­neath us and was com­ing up on us, I said to my­self like we trap be­cause the fire was all around us like a big cir­cle. I ran and grabbed the baby from the woman and kept scream­ing at them to fol­low me,” Jones re­called.

“But like when they run­ning, the boy may have tripped and fall be­cause I heard the mother scream­ing out for him. I kept run­ning but scream­ing and look­ing back at them but the smoke was too thick and the fire was com­ing closer and closer,” he added.

Jones, who op­er­ates a small par­lor, said shortly be­fore noon on Wed­nes­day, he was ap­proached by Theodore-Hospedales, who re­quested a cut­lass to cut a track for a bush fire to run along. He said he even­tu­ally de­cided to trek up the steep hill to as­sist the young mother.

“When I went up I didn’t see any fire, so we both were cutting the track and clear­ing the land but then sud­denly the fire came from over the hill and spread to a house be­low us and the high breeze was blow­ing the fire up­wards to us, trap­ping us,” he re­called.

“Ev­ery­thing hap­pened very quickly but me and my brother still tried we best to save ev­ery­body.”

Fire­fight­ers from the San Juan Fire Sta­tion who re­sponded to the call later found Hezekiah’s burnt body ly­ing in a hole in the ground in a foetal po­si­tion.

Jones said he strongly be­lieved the ve­hi­cles which were parked along the road­way de­layed fire­fight­ers try­ing to reach the ac­tual bush fire and ex­tin­guish it on time.

Hezekiah’s death was the sec­ond in the past week as a re­sult of a bush fire.

On Good Fri­day, se­nior forestry of­fi­cer, Keith Camp­bell, 54, died af­ter be­ing se­verely burnt in a bush fire off Lady Chan­cel­lor Road, St Ann’s. His col­leagues — Kernar­ine Car­ring­ton and Jamal Bain — were also burnt but sur­vived.

Jeremiah Jones points to the house in Fe­beau Vil­lage, San Juan, where

he res­cued one-yearold Rukeia Bruce from a bush fire on Wed­nes­day. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ

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