Friday, November 24, 2017
Public safety

Family who lost possessions, pets in fire tries to regroup

RECOMMENDED READING


SPRING HILL — Nearly a month after the fire that reduced her home to a charred skeleton, Aurika Ashcroft shook her head with tear-filled eyes last week as she surveyed what was left.

Her family's blackened belongings, clothes, dishes, books and furniture were still piled outside as reminders of a March day gone horribly wrong.

Although her family resides just a few hundred yards away, Ashcroft doesn't often visit the house at 9069 Orchard Way alone. She prefers to wait until her husband, Ron, and 9-year-old son, Ruslan, can be there to ease the sorrow.

The memories of the nights when the family would gather to grill hamburgers on the patio, or play board games in the living room, still loom beneath the shady oaks surrounding the burned-out structure. Ashcroft, 46, can barely stand the thought of no longer having such moments.

"You never think about what it's like having to pick up the pieces of your life," she said. "So when it happens, you're so devastated and hurt you just go numb."

Ashcroft was the last member of her family to see their rental home standing on March 21. She left about 11:30 a.m. to mail packages to customers of her online exotic plant business and to visit friends. She returned shortly after 2 p.m. to see the 5-acre property covered in thick smoke and fire trucks parked around the home. The blaze, which investigators determined was started by faulty wiring in an appliance, had destroyed the three-bedroom mobile home. The family's two Shih Tzus, Adam and Eve, and their cat Tobias didn't survive.

Although the home was insured by the landlord, the Ashcrofts didn't have renter's insurance. Since then, they've struggled to regain a semblance of a normal life. Fortunately, friends and neighbors and others in the community have stepped up to help. The Red Cross provided the family with temporary lodging and money to buy food and clothes. Neighbors came by to help the family sift through their belongings, trying to salvage what they could.

Last week, Dixie Lopez, a co-worker of Ron Ashcroft's at Accuform Signs, south of Brooksville, organized a fundraising party at the Locomo Skate-Dance-Party in Spring Hill. Lopez is working on plans for another event in the next few weeks.

"Ron and his family are such wonderful people," Lopez said. "Everyone who knows them feels for them right now. We're trying to do whatever we can to help them get their lives back to normal."

Since the tragedy, the Ashcrofts have hung on to any glimmers of positivity that have come their way. Ruslan's orange tabby, Shoeshine, which the family thought had died in the blaze along with their other pets, reappeared a couple of days after the fire. Although severely burned on his legs and head, he continues to improve each day, Aurika Ashcroft said.

"Seeing Shoeshine come back meant the world to my son," Ashcroft said. "It gave him much hope."

The family hasn't decided where they will eventually live. For now, they are contented to stay in a small rented mobile home owned by a neighbor, and are saving up so they will be ready to move when a suitable permanent home is available.

Despite their setbacks, Ashcroft said her family's spirits remain intact.

"We're most thankful that we're all still together," she said. "I don't even want to think what might have happened if we had all been home that day. Those are the blessings that you count on."

Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.

Comments
Tampa officer revives overdose victim in department’s first use of Narcan drug kit

Tampa officer revives overdose victim in department’s first use of Narcan drug kit

TAMPA — A Tampa Police officer administered the department’s first use of an overdose-reversal drug to revive a 27-year-old man on Friday.About 2 a.m., Tampa Police Officer Scott Seely responded to a call in east Tampa about a possible drug overdose,...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Mounted police patrol Seminole Heights after killings

Mounted police patrol Seminole Heights after killings

TAMPA — A Florida police department is using horse patrols in a neighborhood that’s been plagued by homicides in recent weeks. Officials in Tampa have been searching for the person — or people — responsible for shooting and killing four in the Semino...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Car-sized hole from broken water pipe closes road in Valrico

Car-sized hole from broken water pipe closes road in Valrico

VALRICO — A large hole that opened in Valrico’s Bloomingdale neighborhood on Thanksgiving day was caused by a broken water pipe, not a sinkhole, county officials said. The hole swallowed a Mini Cooper-sized chunk of Natures Way Boulevard, at the Elm ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Newly engaged couple among three killed in wrong-way crash on I-75

Newly engaged couple among three killed in wrong-way crash on I-75

TAMPA — Last month, LaShay Waiters got down on one knee and proposed to Yvette Alexandre in front of their family and friends. About two weeks ago, the young couple found out Alexandre was pregnant."They had a great future together," said Waiters’ mo...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Police investigate suspicious package at Clearwater Babies"R"Us

CLEARWATER — Authorities evacuated a Babies"R"Us on Friday after reports of a suspicious package in a shopping cart.According to Clearwater police, someone noticed the package about 10:30 a.m. at the store at 21315 U.S. 19 N. The store was evacuated ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Woman, 51, robbed in Tyrone Square Mall parking lot, police say

ST. PETERSBURG — A woman was robbed after a man followed her to her car in a mall parking lot Thursday night and fired one shot at her, police said. The 51-year-old woman, whose identity St. Petersburg Police are withholding, was not injured. She was...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Murky waters: Chartering the wrong boat can have tragic consequences

Murky waters: Chartering the wrong boat can have tragic consequences

Captain Dan Peretz noticed the same charter boats overloaded with passengers again and again. He thought, "This is how people die.’’ So he sent emails to the Coast Guard, sharing his concerns, naming specific boats, including the Jaguar....
Updated: 5 hours ago
Woman killed in Largo motorcycle crash could ‘out-game any dude’

Woman killed in Largo motorcycle crash could ‘out-game any dude’

LARGO — Sydney Pender, 27, loved riding her motorcycle, even though she knew the dangers. Three years ago, her friend said, a delivery truck hit her. But she kept riding. On Thanksgiving, it was a crash with a taxi cab that killed her.Pender, a St. P...
Published: 11/23/17

Valrico intersection closed after car-sized hole opens in road

VALRICO — A hole the size of a vehicle opened up beneath the intersection of Nature’s Way Boulevard and Elm Grove Lane, Hillsborough officials said.The cause of the depression is unclear, but the intersection was blocked off to traffic.Hillsborough C...
Published: 11/23/17

Update: Mother, toddler hit by car in critical condition at TGH

TAMPA — A mother and one of her two small children who were hit by a car while trying to cross Dale Mabry Highway on Wednesday were still in the hospital on Thanksgiving, according to Tampa General Hospital.Cassandra Marie Spicola, 29, and 18-month-o...
Published: 11/23/17