FOR a school night, last Monday was a good one for Eivyrenz Ruiz, 16, his older sister Allison and younger brother Ace Andre.
Before they went to sleep, the three siblings were allowed to watch TV in their living room while their youngest sister, Angel Lavigne, slept in her room.
“Naglingaw-naglingaw ra gyud mi ato. Nagsiaw-siaw while nagtan-aw ug TV (We were relaxing and having fun while we watched TV),” Eivyrenz told Sun.Star Cebu yesterday.
He never thought it would be the last time he would see his siblings alive.
His three siblings were killed when their two-storey house in Barangay Colon, City of Naga burned down at dawn yesterday.
Allison Lee, 19; Ace Andre, 13; and Angel Lavigne, 9, were already dead when fire investigators came in to inspect the ruins of their house.
Eivyrenz survived the fire after he broke open the window of his room and jumped from the second floor.
Fire officials suspected that electrical wiring that got soaked during the rain at dawn yesterday may have had something to do with the blaze.
Eivyrenz recalled he woke up when he heard his older sister screaming from the room she shared with their youngest. Allison was shouting for help.
Eivyrenz then noticed there was smoke swirling around his and Ace Andre’s room.
When he opened the door, a huge wall of flames greeted him, scalding his nose and right ear. He couldn’t reach his sisters, but he told Ace Andre to break their glass window so they could both escape.
Eivyrenz then jumped, and the fall caused some injuries on his arms and legs.
But he noticed that his younger brother didn’t jump down after him.
“Gasige ra sila ug syagit ug tabang, pero dili nako kasulod ug balik kay dako na kaayo ang kayo ug narattle na sad ko ato (They kept screaming for help but the flames were so big that I couldn’t get back inside. I got rattled),” Eivyrenz said.
By morning, he saw the corpses of his siblings in what was left of their living room.
Marilou Saya-ang, an aunt of the siblings, claimed that the City of Naga Fire Department failed to respond immediately.
She alleged that her brother and the victims’ uncle, Jeffrey, knocked on the door of the local fire department in Barangay South Poblacion at 4 a.m. but no one answered.
Saya-ang said that she also called the fire department’s hotline but no one answered either.
Out of frustration, Jeffrey honked his car’s horn to call the attention of the fire station’s personnel.
By the time they responded, the family said, it was too late.
“Maayo pa ang taga San Fernando ug taga Minglanilla kay niresponde pa, pero ang taga Naga kay wala gyud. Sila gyud unta ang nag-una (Firefighters from San Fernando and Minglanilla responded, but the ones from Naga didn’t. They should have been here first),” Saya-ang added.
Got there first
Insp. Heidie Joy Daskeo, City of Naga fire marshal, denied allegations by the victims’ relatives.
Daskeo told Sun.Star Cebu it was her team, not the fire units of Minglanilla and San Fernando, who initially responded to the fire.
She said they received the fire alarm at 4:48 a.m. after a concerned citizen came to their office to report the fire. Based on the report of SFO2 Ruseller Generalao, who served as ground commander at that time, the fire started around 4:40 a.m.
Daskeo admitted they didn’t receive any calls from their hotline because most of their personnel were out responding to the fire at that time.
She said that upon receiving the report, three of their available fire trucks immediately went to the area.
According to Generalao, they declared the fire as a first alarm, which means only the local fire department was needed at the scene.
But Daskeo said that by the time they got there, all three siblings were already dead.
Upon hearing about it, City of Naga Mayor Valdemar Chiong said he wants to know from the fire department what really happened.
Chiong also said he already provided initial assistance to the victims’ surviving family, including medical aid for Eivyrenz.
More than P300,000, including appliances and furniture, were destroyed in the fire.
For now, the bodies of the three siblings are in the Mount View Funeral Parlor in Barangay Tuyan, City of Naga.
Saya-ang said that the mother of the three victims, Agnes, will be flying home from Saudi Arabia within the week.
Agnes, she added, had high hopes for her children, especially Allison, who was a third-year civil engineering student at the University of San Jose-Recoletos.