Neighbors describe frantic effort to enter burning Arizona home where 5 kids died: “Screaming at the tops of our lungs”


Neighbors described a frantic effort to enter a burning house in Arizona where five children were trapped, saying they “did everything we could” to get inside. The chilling accounts came after a father who left four children and a young relative at the home so he could buy Christmas gifts and groceries returned to find the charred remains of the family’s home after a fire broke out, killing all five children inside, authorities said.

Investigators in northwestern Arizona said Tuesday they have yet to determine what started the blaze, which began Saturday evening in the downstairs foyer area of the two-story duplex. Flames and smoke traveled up the only staircase inside the home, preventing the children from escaping.

Their bodies were all found in an upstairs bedroom, investigators said.

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A memorial vigil was scheduled for Wednesday night, Dec. 20, 2023, while friends of the families launched a GoFundMe page to help with funeral expenses after a fire broke out at a home in Bullhead City, Ariz., killing five children.

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Bullhead City police did not immediately release the names of the children pending identification by the medical examiner. They included a 4-year-old girl and her three brothers – ages 2, 5 and 13 – and an 11-year-old boy who was a family relative and visiting at the time.

A Bullhead City Fire Department employee was the grandfather of the victims, police revealed in a social media post.  

City Mayor Steve D’Amico, in a video statement Tuesday, said the tragedy has shaken the close-knit community near the Colorado River and the Nevada border.

“I have seen the flowers, the stuffed animals and the candles” lining the chainlink fence in front of the home, D’Amico added.

Patrick O’Neal was among the neighbors who rushed over after seeing smoke coming out of the home. He said about a dozen men gathered hoses and broke windows to try to get into the burning house.

“We pulled the garage door open, there was guys pulling stuff out,” O’Neal said told CBS affiliate KPHO-TV. “The closer we got to the door there was smoke starting to come into the garage and choking people out.”

At the time, they didn’t know if anyone was home.

“We were screaming at the tops of our lungs,” O’Neal told reporters Monday. “We didn’t see nothing. We didn’t hear nothing. There are many guys out here who would have went into that fire if we would have known there was children … We did everything we could.”

The cause of the fire is being investigated by police and a local fire department along with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Bullhead City Police Chief Robert Trebes said investigators were working to get answers about the cause to “bring some closure and peace to parents and families involved.”

A memorial vigil for the five children was scheduled for Wednesday night at a nearby park while friends of the families launched a GoFundMe page which has raised more than $16,000 as of Wednesday morning to help with funeral expenses.

The neighbors said they are still shaken up by the tragedy.

“We did everything we could and thank you to everyone that did try to help,” O’Neal told KPHO-TV.



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