Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Family holds vigil remembering Ruskin girl killed in fire

RUSKIN

They came Monday night carrying balloons Alejandra Carmona would have loved. Family and friends gathered around the 4-year-old's grandmother, who clutched to her chest a photo of Alejandra in a Tinker Bell shirt — smiling, as always.

Relatives prayed just feet from the burnt-out mobile home where the girl died late Friday. Then they released the balloons. Some called out the girl's name. This was goodbye.

"They're going to heaven," someone in the crowd called out.

The evening vigil for the 4-year-old girl came as fire investigators continue to search for clues to what may have caused the blaze that destroyed the home where the girl lived with her father, his girlfriend and three other children. Everyone made it out except for Alejandra.

Hillsborough County fire marshal investigator David Tucker said the family had used candles the night of the fire and investigators consider that one possible cause for the blaze. "That is a working hypothesis we have at this time," said Tucker, though the family disputes that.

The home did not have smoke detectors that could have dramatically increased the odds of the girl getting out alive, Tucker said. About a dozen other homes in Wolf's Mobile Home Park were also without alarms, he said. Hillsborough County officials distributed free smoke detectors to some of the occupants Monday.

The mobile home park was last inspected in July 2013, he said. But that inspection was geared toward ensuring open access for emergency vehicles, not to inspect for smoke alarms, Tucker said.

The fire started about 11:30 p.m. as the family lay sleeping. Alejandra lived at the home with her father, Monico Carmona, his girlfriend, Kristina White, and three other children.

White said she woke up after having been asleep about an hour and saw smoke that appeared to be rising from beneath the couple's bed. She said Carmona tried to throw water from a glass onto the blaze, but that only seemed to make it more intense.

She grabbed Carmona's 7-month-old son and ran outside, where she handed the child to a neighbor. Two other children made it out, White said. She and Carmona went back into the home to try to get Alejandra.

At one point, White said she thought she could hear the child coughing. They called the girl's name. But they heard nothing else. As the smoke and heat became thick, they could see very little.

"We tried everything," White said. "But the smoke was so intense. It was just too late. We couldn't find her."

They tried breaking the windows in the room where the girl slept, hoping to reach in and pull her out. But they were forced back.

The entire home was consumed by flames in three minutes, White said.

The girl's parents are separated. Funeral arrangements were incomplete Monday with both sides unable to agree on whether Alejandra should be buried or cremated, according to Irene Valdez, the girl's grandmother.

The father, she said, favors cremation. But the mother and Valdez want the girl buried in a Ruskin cemetery where Valdez's son, who died in a car crash years ago, is buried.

"I still visit my son every holiday," Valdez said. "It's the perfect spot. We want to be able to visit her and bring her flowers on her grave. I want to be able to talk to her there."

The father, Carmona, who was treated at Tampa General Hospital for burns and cuts, did not attend the vigil and could not be reached for comment.

White said she and Carmona believe the fire was electrical and started under their bed and was not caused by candles, which she said were put out long before the fire.

Alejandra's mother, Erica Salazar, handed out balloons during the vigil. A television reporter asked her what she would say to her daughter if she could speak to her one more time.

"Mommy misses you," Salazar said, choking back tears. "She didn't deserve this. She was so happy. She did not deserve this."

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3432.

Family holds vigil remembering Ruskin girl killed in fire 02/17/14 [Last modified: Monday, February 17, 2014 11:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Navy parachutist dies during demonstration over Hudson River

    Military

    JERSEY CITY, N.J. — In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, a Navy Seal team member fell to his death Sunday after his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River.

    Officials surround a U.S. Navy Seal's parachute that landed in a parking lot after the parachutist fell into the Hudson River when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the river in Jersey City, N.J. The Navy said the parachutist was pronounced dead at Jersey City Medical Center. [Joe Shine | Jersey Journal via AP]
  2. As White House defends Jared Kushner, experts question his alleged back-channel move

    National

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration argued over the weekend that back-channel communications are acceptable in building dialogue with foreign governments, part of an effort to minimize fallout over White House adviser Jared Kushner's reported discussion about creating a secret conduit to the Kremlin at a Russian …

    President-elect Donald Trump embraces son in law Jared Kushner, as his daughter Ivanka Trump stands nearby, after his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of Nov. 9. [Mark Wilson | Getty Images]
  3. Sunstar ambulance unit overturns at Drew Street intersection in Clearwater, prompts road closures

    Accidents

    The intersection of Drew Street and Fort Harrison Avenue in Clearwater is closed following a crash that involved a Sunstar ambulance unit, according to the Clearwater Police Department.

    A Sunstar unit flipped in the intersection of Drew Street and Ford Harrison Avenue in Clearwater Monday morning after a car reportedly ran a red light and struck the ambulance, according to the Clearwater Police Department.
  4. Merkel spokesman: Germany still seeking stronger U.S. ties

    Nation

    BERLIN — Berlin remains committed to strong trans-Atlantic relations, but Chancellor Angela Merkel's suggestion after meetings with President Donald Trump that Europe can no longer entirely rely on the U.S. "speaks for itself," her spokesman said Monday

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a speech during an election campaign of her Christian Democratic Union, CDU, and the Christian Social Union, CSU, in Munich, southern Germany, Sunday. Merkel is urging European Union nations to stick together in the face of new uncertainty over the United States and other challenges. [Matthias Balk/dpa via AP]
  5. Tampa police: 46 arrests, 47 ejections at two-day Sunset Music Festival

    Public Safety

    Times staff

    TAMPA — In a preliminary tally Monday morning, police declared there were "no major incidents" during the two-day Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium but boosted the number of arrests and rejections they provided in earlier reports during the weekend.

    A Tampa Fire Rescue all-terrain vehicle patrols the parking area north of Raymond James Stadum on Sunday, day two of the Sunset Music Festival. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]