ZEPHYRHILLS — A fund has been set up to help a family that lost two children in a fire.
Hunter Freeman, 10, and his sister Mackenze, 9, were killed when their mobile home caught fire Tuesday evening. Authorities continued to investigate the cause of the fire Thursday, said Kevin Doll, spokesman for the Pasco Sheriff's Office.
Both Hunter and Mackenze were severely disabled. Neither child could crawl or communicate.
"They are both precious angels," said Jan Valmassoi, who taught Hunter and Mackenze in a special education class at Centennial Elementary School. Valmassoi drove past the house on Loury Drive on Wednesday, hoping to find family members.
"Their mom is an amazingly strong woman," Valmassoi said.
"Our hearts go out to her."
The children's mother, Anise Bourque, 36, told family she stepped out of the house for a minute to tell her boyfriend, James Moore, 34, it was time for dinner about 6:30 p.m. Within a few moments, Bourque's son Walker — who is Hunter's twin and physically healthy — ran up to her to tell her smoke was coming out of their trailer at River Haven Mobile Home Park. Bourque was burned on her face, hands and feet trying to save her children. Neighbors scrambled to get Hunter and Mackenze out of the house, using an ax, a spade, a chain saw. They dragged water hoses from their homes. The fire was too intense.
"I honestly wish I could have took their place," said Bourque's sister, Amanda Bourque. "I would have took their place in a minute."
Anise Bourque and Moore have been together for nine years and have an 8-year-old son together, Austin. Bourque suffered third-degree burns on her hands.
"She was a good mom," said Amanda Bourque. "She did everything for those kids."
Anise Bourque was a full-time caretaker of her children. Moore worked construction but, with jobs scarce, had been working maintenance at the trailer park.
"This was a good, working family," said Sandy Beare, a family friend.
Bourque and Moore wanted to move to a bigger, wheelchair accessible house, but didn't have the money.
"They don't have anything," Beare said. She said the family lost everything in the fire, apart from each other, their pickup truck and Hunter and Mackenze's wheelchairs, which were outside.
She has no idea how they are going to pay for a funeral.
"They can't bury them," Beare said.
Donations can be made at any SunTrust bank in the name of the Benefit Trust for the Family of Mackenze and Hunter Freeman.
"This has just ripped her up," Beare said. "She's not doing well at all."
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.