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Second life lost in fire where burglar bars thwarted escape

TAMPA — The fire that trapped a family of three behind burglar bars earlier this week claimed a second life.

Willie Bynes, 68, died at Tampa General Hospital Wednesday morning, a day after his granddaughter, 26-year-old Latoya Williams-Jones, died from her injuries.

Still alive is Mary Jones-Bynes, 73, Willie's wife and Williams-Jones' grandmother.

Jones-Bynes condition was upgraded from serious to fair on Wednesday at St. Joseph's Hospital, a spokeswoman said.

Al Givens, 71, Mary Jones-Bynes' brother, said his sister was still sedated. He fears her reaction to the news that her long-time sweetheart and daughter had passed.

"That would sink her," he said.

Givens said that Willie Bynes was a retired school janitor who courted his sister, a retired teacher, for years before they finally married.

"You couldn't see one without seeing the other," Givens said. "They was always together."

Monday's early-morning fire at 2905 Chipco St. was caused by a space heater that was too close to a couch, according to the Fire Marshal's Office.

Burglar bars on the burning home prevented the three residents from escaping.

Rescuers and good Samaritans struggled to free them before they were eventually pulled from the burning home by firefighters.

On Wednesday, family friend Don Lee said the already grief-stricken family was struggling to make funeral arrangements for two after word of Bynes' death compounded the pain they felt about Williams-Jones' loss.

Williams-Jones was a chipper young woman who was studying nursing while living with her grandparents, Givens and Bynes said.

The charred family home in East Tampa remained off-limits to traffic Wednesday, yellow accident scene tape fluttering in the wind.

The iron bars that trapped the family in smoky confusion are now replaced by plywood.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at or (813) 226-3383.

Second life lost in fire where burglar bars thwarted escape 12/10/08 [Last modified: Thursday, December 11, 2008 12:06am]
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