2 burned in Cecil Ave. fire released from hospital

May 26, 2007|By Nicole Fuller and Annie Linskey | Nicole Fuller and Annie Linskey,Sun reporters

Two burn victims from the deadly Cecil Avenue fire were released from a hospital yesterday, while authorities continued struggling to identify five of the six people who died.

Family members had initially hoped to hold one funeral for all of their loved ones, but those plans cannot go forward since authorities have had difficulty obtaining dental records they need to make conclusive identifications, a family member said.

Instead, relatives will bury only one victim Tuesday, Marquis D. Ellis, 7, a second-grader at Highlandtown Elementary School.

Danielle Davis, whose sister was being treated at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center for burns, said most of the victims had never been to the dentist, making identification by dental records impossible.

"They may have to do DNA," said Keith Fleming, whose cousin died in the fire. "That may take a while. This is ridiculous."

Chief Kevin Cartwright, a city Fire Department spokesman, confirmed that only one family member has been positively identified.

The cause of the fire has not been officially determined, but a source close to the investigation told The Sun that it was likely caused by a person smoking on a couch in the front room.

The fire, one of the city's deadliest, ripped through a crowded rowhouse in one of the city's blighted East Baltimore neighborhoods Tuesday morning, killing five people inside. A sixth died shortly after arriving at a hospital.

Seven others were badly burned, and four of them, including a 1-year-old girl, remained hospitalized yesterday.

Family members were busy making funeral plans for Marquis. The 7-year-old loved McDonald's, playing tag, riding his bicycle and spending time with his young cousins, according to an obituary placed on the March Funeral Homes Web site.

But he had a mind of his own. "His mom always had a hard time trying to get his hair braided (he hated that comb)," according to the obituary.

The funeral home and King Memorial Park Cemetery in Woodlawn are donating their services to the families. March Funeral Home has set up a condolence page on its Web site for people who want to write in about the fire victims.

Marquis' mother, Oneika Ellis, was burned in the fire but survived. She was in fair condition at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center yesterday, said Jessica McQuay, a hospital spokeswoman. Also at Bayview was Deneen Thomas, who remained in critical condition, the spokeswoman said.

Two were released, McQuay said.. Those were Rodney Alston, 30, and Chriseria A. Thomas, 20, she said. Neither could be reached yesterday.

Amira Williams, 1, was in critical condition at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. Her sister, Aniyah Williams, 3, was treated and released from the hospital Tuesday.

Across town, Dominic Thompson, whose age is not known, was in critical condition yesterday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, said Cynthia Rivers, a hospital spokeswoman.

At the burned house yesterday, a makeshift memorial to the victims had grown. Stuffed animals and flowers hung from two trees on either side of 1903 Cecil Ave. Visitors had taped cards and Bible passages to the front door of the rowhouse.

A few blocks away, Thomas Cummings, 43, who is related to fire victim Davonte Witherspoon, 13, recalled the teenager as a promising young person.

Witherspoon reportedly escaped the fire but ran back in to rescue his brother, Tashon Thomas, 16, who used a wheelchair.

"No one had to tell me how it went down," Cummings said. "When they told me one of the [children] went in, I knew it was him. Nobody had to tell me that. I knew he wouldn't leave his brother. He was a little boy, but he had a big heart."

Public viewings for Marquis will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow and Monday. Family will receive friends from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. both days. The viewings will be at March Funeral Home East, 1101 E. North Ave.

The funeral service will be 11 a.m. Tuesday at Israel Baptist Church, 200 N. Washington St. The family will receive friends at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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