KENNEWICK – Family and friends are mourning the death a Kennewick elementary student who loved wearing princess dresses every Sunday.
And they’re hoping her brother, a 14-year-old middle school student, will recover after being severely burned in a Saturday morning fire at an RV park.
“Losing their little girl and their home and having their son in ICU is more than any family should have to handle,” Mayra Alexandra Quintero wrote for a GoFundMe account created to help the family. “We are asking our friends and our community to come together and help take some of the financial burden off their shoulders.”
More than 300 people had already donated about $22,000 to the GoFundMe less than a day after it was posted.
Naomi, 8, and her 14-year-old brother Lotar were sleeping inside an RV when the fire broke out shortly after 11 a.m., according to the GoFundMe.
Lotar, suffering from burns and smoke, managed to climb out of the motorhome while rescuers struggled to reach the locked RV to pull out his sister.
On Monday, firefighters are still trying to determine how the fire started, Fire Chief Chad Michael told the Herald.
Investigators have determined it started in the front portion of the motorhome.
They returned to the 7322 W. Bonnie Ave. Monday morning to continue their investigation. The RV park is off Highway 240 and about a block east of Columbia Center Boulevard.
While officials haven’t confirmed what started the fire, everything about it looks like it was an accident. Initial reports suspected a space heater.
The children’s parents, Hector and Monica Escobar-Chimal, were working on Saturday morning. Hector is a circus performer and was out of the state, said Quintero’s post.
She said the children’s mom had kissed them on her way to work that morning and said she loved them.
Emergency crews were called when dark, black smoke began billowing from the RV.
As soon as neighbors realized what was happening, they tried to open the door, but found it locked, Quintero wrote. Then they broke a window and helped Lotar out just as emergency responders were arriving.
A Kennewick police officer tried opening the door, but also wasn’t able to get inside. He ended up with minor burns from the effort.
Firefighters forced the door open and found Naomi still inside. Both children were rushed to local hospitals.
The smoke was too much for the young girl, and she died, Quintero wrote. Lotar was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle where he was in stable condition in the intensive care unit.
He will still have a long road to recovery, according to the GoFundMe. He suffered burns to the upper half of his body and possible smoke damage to his lungs and eyes.
“The family is being told that it will be several weeks before Lotar returns home,” Quintero wrote.
A firefighter was treated for minor injuries from the fire.
Naomi was described as a typical 8-year-old. She went to classes at Vista Elementary School. She loved to wear princess dresses to church every Sunday, and was “without a doubt, daddy’s princess.”
Her first-grade teacher wrote on the GoFundMe page that she was loved so much by her family and friends at school.
“I will miss Naomi’s sweet smiles and hellos in the halls,” her teacher wrote. “My heart goes out to Naomi’s loving family.”
Lotar was celebrating his birthday on the day of the fire, Quintero wrote. The shy Chinook Middle School student has a big love for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and had celebrated his birthday the day before with his youth group at church.
Both the fire chief and firefighters offered their condolences, and a small memorial was left at the scene, including flowers, a Minnie Mouse doll and card.
“Our hearts are broken by the loss of a community member that lost her life in an RV fire yesterday,” Michael said on Twitter Sunday. “We cannot imagine the unbearable pain of losing a child. We are hoping and praying for the recovery of the other child involved.”
The Kennewick firefighters shared a link to the GoFundMe, and asked people to help if they can.
“Although our fire department family is hurting right now, we can’t begin to imagine the pain this family and their friends are in,” they said.
The Kennewick School District had counselors available at Vista Elementary and Chinook to help any students or staff, said Robyn Chastain, the district’s executive director of communications and public relations.
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