All three victims of a West Main Street house fire Tuesday underwent several surgeries late Tuesday evening and Wednesday in efforts to save their lives.
While 19-year-old Cierra Mincey and her daughter Naomi, 2, are in critical but stable condition, 18-month-old Costello Reese, Cierra Mincey's nephew, is still causing major concern, said his mother, Beunca Mincey.
"He is covered, 95 percent of his body, with third degree burns," she said Wednesday, calling from the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at the Doctors Hospital in Augusta. Her voice was thick with emotion as she spoke about her only child's injuries.
"I don't know, I just don't know," she moaned. "He is my only child — I waited 30 years to get one."
She was at work when the fire occurred. Her sister Cierra was caring for the children when apparently a gas space heater ignited materials nearby - possibly laundry and couches, she said.
Statesboro Fire Investigator Capt. Emerson Melton said the fire remains under investigation, but preliminary reports indicate the heater was the source of ignition.
When she discovered the flames, Cierra dragged Naomi and Costello outside, but she and both children suffered extensive burns, Beunca Mincey said. Tiny Costello's clothing was in flames when Megan Drake and Elgie Raymond both stopped to help.
"I was coming down West Main Street and saw the house on fire," Drake said. "A young woman was on the sidewalk ... burned … with a young child. She was distraught and screaming ... that there were still children in the house."
A man who White later identified as Raymond came up to help, wrapping a jacket around Costello to extinguish the flames, she said.
"There were other children, and we took them away from the house as something — maybe a gas line — exploded," Drake said. "By then the house was completely engulfed."
Neighbors were trying to soothe Cierra and the children as firefighters and rescue workers arrived at the scene, she said. Other neighbors stood staring, stunned at the sight.
Beunca Mincey said her niece Miracle, 5, rescued two of her siblings. Another relative, Venus White, told how the child took charge and dragged her brother and sister out of the inferno.
"They were all sleeping," she said. "Miracle grabbed her brother by his waist and her sister by her hair. She went outside on the porch and waited for somebody to come help her."
Miracle's brother, Kareem, is 8 months old; their sister Aliyah is 2 years.
"She had great courage to get them out," White said."Her name is Miracle, and she performed a miracle."
Speaking from the burn center, White said Cierra Mincey was "up and alert" after surgery, which included skin grafts, but she faces a long, slow recovery. So does little Naomi, who also underwent surgery, but both are stable.
They are still unsure about Costello, she said. Due to his age and extent of injury, at the time doctors are unable to do much in the way of surgery, although Beunca Mincey said her son had undergone surgery Wednesday afternoon.
"He was so severely burned, it has affected his (internal) organs," White said. "Prayer is really the only thing we can do right now."
The American Red Cross has helped the Mincey family — nine people lived in the home — with food and lodging, but others in the community have reached out to help.
Cleve White, Venus' husband, said a fund has been set up at First Southern National Bank in the Mincey family name for anyone who wants to donate. Also, clothing and other household items the Minceys may need can be dropped off at Cleve White Nissan on South Main Street, he said.
Venus White listed the family members who lost their home in the fire, along with clothing sizes: James Russell Mincey — pants size 38, shirt size large, and shoe size nine; wife Carolyn Mincey — shirt sizes large and extra large, pants size 36, shoe size 8 1/2 to 9; Jacquelyn Mincey — size 36 pants, large shirts, 9 1/2 shoes.
Children: Eric — child's size 10-12, child's shoe size 13; Miracle — child's size 5T,child's shoe size 13; Aliyah — child's size 3T, pull-up style diapers, child's shoe size 9; Kareem — infant size 6-9 months, child's shoe size 2; diapers.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.