Massive Fire Rips Through SW Philly Homes, Killing 4 Children

Father of Fire Victims: When Can We Bury Our Kids?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A group of outraged citizens protested outside of City Hall today out of frustration of how last week's deadly house fire as handled. (Published Wednesday, Jul 9, 2014)

    Fueled by a fourth day of frustration and grief, a Philadelphia father led a group of demonstrators from the burned-out street where his children died, to City Hall.

    When Can We Bury Fire Victims?

    [PHI] When Can We Bury Fire Victims?
    When can we bury our children? That's one of the questions raised by the father of two little boys who died in Saturday's fatal fire in SW Philadelphia, as well as the U.S. Ambassador from Liberia. (Published Wednesday, Jul 9, 2014)

    Patrick Sanyeah wants an apology from Mayor Michael Nutter and he also wants to know when he can bury his boys.

    "There's no time limit of burying the kids," he complained after a morning meeting with city leaders.

    Sanyeah sat at the same table with the U.S. Ambassador from his homeland of Liberia, who wanted to know what he could tell his president about the investigation into Saturday's fatal fire.

    "Do we go ahead and bury these little kids, which I don't want to keep in the funeral home forever, but at the same time, would we not be compromising the investigation?" Ambassador Jeremiah Sulunteh asked.

    Sulunteh also urged officials to make sure witnesses were heard during the fire marshal's investigation.

    "When you start to pre-judge that there was inaccurate information, then I have a problem with that," he said.

    Sanyeah's four-year-old son, Patrick, and infant son Taj Jacque died early Saturday morning when a fast-moving fire spread from a porch couch to 10 rowhomes along their one-block street in southwest Philadelphia. Twin sisters Maria and Mariallah Bowah, also 4, died too.

    Members of city council promised Sanyeah and Sulunteh Wednesday that all their questions will be answered during the fire investigation. Sanyeah, who led another community protest on Monday, has questioned the fire department's response time and rejected documentation by the city that shows firefighters were on the scene in the 6500 block of Gesner Street in five minutes.

    "I want some answers. I want to know if it's a murder. I want to know if it's an incident. I want to know if somebody did it intentionally," said Sanyeah, who claimed he didn't get adequate answers to his questions during the morning meeting.

    "At the end of the day I left the meeting with no results, nothing," Sanyeah said. "I don't know where my children are at. I will not get them back again. They're gone."

    Sanyeah later returned Wednesday afternoon and demanded face time with Mayor Michael Nutter.

    "We want answers, We want answers," he and the group of about 30 demonstrators chanted.

    Once outside City Hall, Sanyeah yelled for the mayor to come outside and make a public apology. Mayor Nutter however was out of town.

    Sanyeah and his fellow protesters sat outside the visitor entrance of City Hall as around 30 police officers stood between the group and the city hall entrance. The group says they plan to stay there until they receive an apology from Mayor Nutter.

    "I don't think the mayor is going to apologize," said Mike Resnick, the Philadelphia Public Safety Director. "They can stay here as long as they don't violate any laws. They have a right to demonstrate. The mayor is not here."

    Sanyeah also demanded that Mayor Nutter sign a letter stating that the city would investigate the fire.

    "The source of the fire was the couch that was burning on the porch," Resnick said. "Right now, we don't know the cause. But couches don't just spontaneously combust. We want to be very deliberate about the fire investigation process. Sometimes very horrible things happen and it's not the fire department's fault."