Aftermath of tragedy Parents feel frustration of being unable to save six children from blaze

March 05, 1997|By William E. Thompson Jr. | William E. Thompson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Tears streaming down their faces, Frederick Ebanks Jr. and Ernestine Walker yesterday talked for the first time of the fast-moving fire that killed five of their children and a niece early Monday.

"My children were my life," Walker said. "Part of me is gone, but my life is not really gone because I have two other children."

Alternately holding their youngest child, 15-month-old Dwayne Ebanks, the parents related the events that led to the tragedy at their Lakewood Avenue rowhouse.

Ebanks, 27, said he awoke to tend to Dwayne, who was wet and needed to have his pacifier washed off. He went downstairs to see if another son, Brandon, was still watching television. Brandon had gone to bed, Ebanks said, but out of the corner of his eye he saw sparks.

He said he rushed upstairs to get Walker and Dwayne out of harm's way. With the help of a neighbor, they escaped onto a balcony at the back of the house.

But when he tried to go back into the house to rescue the others, it was too late. Smoke and intense heat drove him back.

By the time firefighters doused the flames, five of the couple's children were dead: Brandon Allen, 12; Bradley Miller, 10; Joseph Miller, 7; Frederick Ebanks 3rd, 5; Ernest Ebanks 3rd, 2. Also killed was a niece, Shakira Walker, 2.

Walker acknowledged the frustration Ebanks felt about not being able to do more to save the family.

"He's blaming himself for not getting the children out. He just feels like he didn't do enough, but I know in my heart he did the best he could," she said.

The parents stressed that they had two working smoke detectors with fresh batteries -- one downstairs between the kitchen and living room and another upstairs -- but weren't sure why they failed to hear either one. Walker said both detectors had been tested Thursday, when her daughter, Brittney Allen, 13, helped her check them.

Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres, a Fire Department spokesman, said an investigation into the cause of the blaze was continuing.

"All preliminary evidence indicates it started accidentally," Torres said. He said that evidence of smoke detectors had yet to surface and that the investigation would likely end by Friday.

Meanwhile, neighbors looked on as firefighters canvassed the area asking residents if they had working smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and escape plans. The Fire Department also distributed fire prevention pamphlets.

Firefighters encountered several houses where no one was home, and some residents already had smoke detectors.

But many gladly accepted the detectors, which the department provides and installs free.

Pub Date: 3/05/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.