The 15-year old sister of a boy killed in a Wednesday night fire underwent surgery Thursday for burns she suffered before she was pulled from the house.
Shabrala Honester, 15, was burned over 40 percent of her body and was transported by helicopter to a burn center, said Capt. Doug Blanton of the Brunswick Fire Department.
Firefighters found her brother, 4-month-old James Honester , inside the house and he was later pronounced dead at Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick hospital, officials said.
A state fire investigator, who inspected the house Thursday, could not determine the exact cause of the fire but said it appeared to have started in a bedroom, Blanton said.
Rebecca Shellman of Jacksonville said her daughter, Priscilla Grover, and six of her seven children lived in the house on a corner of Lincoln and Gordon streets.
Shellman praised Brunswick police officer Kevin Yarborough for helping pull her granddaughter out of the burning house.
“The police saved her life pulling her out. She’s burned badly on her arms, face and legs,” she said.
Grover, who was grief-stricken at the scene Wednesday night, tried to talk about her children Thursday but broke down.
Family members gathered at a home several blocks from the fire said that Shabrala and James had been asleep when the fire broke out and that Shabrala tried to get out of the fire with her brother. But she fell on the way out and had to be rescued herself, they said.
Yarborough said he was on patrol just over a block away when he got the call to the fire. He sped to the scene and saw a crowd and the frantic Grover in front of the house screaming, “My kids are inside!”
When he asked if she was certain, “She said, ‘Yes. My babies are inside. Somebody get my babies.’ Then she dropped to her knees,’’ Yarborough said.
Looking for a way inside, Yarborough said he saw a silhouette of a man through the front door.
The man was dragging Shabrala toward the door and Yarborough said he stepped inside the front door and helped him pull her out. Another officer helped Yarborough carry Shabrala from the porch and across the street.
“I didn’t think she was breathing,” but she gurgled as she lay on the ground and then began whining, Yarborough said.
“I told her to keep singing, to let me hear God’s voice,” he said.
Yarborough deflected praise and said the hero was the civilian who went into the burning house.
Porch mates spring to action
Actually, there were two. Hulen Rooks was sitting on his front porch with Warren Clayton just before 6 p.m. when they saw smoke at the house two doors away. Seeing smoke coming through the roof, Rooks said he kicked in the front door, but couldn’t see inside for the smoke.
Clayton said he went inside and found nothing and came out and stood with Rooks until Grover came running up shouting her children were inside.
Clayton went back in and Rooks, afraid that Clayton would “get burned up,” followed. The fire flashed, illuminating Shabrala; Clayton and Rooks pulled her out.
When they got across the street, it was apparent no one could get back through the flames, the men said.
“It’s always going to be on my mind,” Rooks said of the lost child, “but it was all we could do.”
Yarborough said it has also weighed on his mind.
“The thing that got me is I have a 3-month-old. You always think of your own in a time like this,” he said.
One of Grover’s cousins, Kizzy Strauther , said Grover needs help for her surviving children and for funeral expenses.
“She lost everything, clothes, beds. For six children, that’s a lot,” Strauther said.
An account has been established at SunTrust Bank under Royal Funeral Home and Priscilla Grover. The account number is 1000101605433 .
BY Terry Dickson