AHOSKIE, N.C. (WAVY) – Investigators said a kerosene heater was the cause of a fire that tore through a home in Ahoskie Thursday morning, injuring a man and boy and killing two girls.
The fire sparked at a home in the 400 block of Mitchell Street, which did not have smoke detectors inside, fire officials said. Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh told WAVY.com the 911 call came in around 3 a.m., and crews with both the police department and the fire department responded.
Two juveniles were pronounced dead at a hospital.
Officials have not provided any information on the two killed, but family members told WAVY.com their names are Aaliyah Cherry, 12, and Angel Cherry, 13.
“Those were my two sisters,” their sister Gerarld Cherry told WAVY.com. “I loved those two to death. I just can’t believe they’re gone. I’ve been crying all night. I have not been sleeping. I haven’t slept ever since I heard what happened. My mother called and told me everything [that] happened. I was out of town last night when they called. I’m going to miss them. I know [they're] up in heaven now. “
The girls’ father, 54-year-old father Earl Drake and an 8-year-old boy were airlifted to a hospital, Fitzhugh said. Family members have said the boy’s name is Omarion.
Dale Gauding with Sentara Healthcare said Drake was listed in critical condition at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital while the boy was at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters. Fire officials told WAVY.com the boy was expected to be transferred to a hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Michael Wiggins said he was friends with the girls’ father. “He did all he could for them. He loved his children, just cared for them so much and tried to do the best he could for them,” Wiggins said.
“It was just total shock, and like, I was just picturing what if that could have been my kids or my family,” said neighbor Deon Bazemore.
Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh said the sudden loss has been hard on everyone involved.
“We feel for the public as well, and we have to do our job first and hold our emotions to the side, and that’s kind of hard to do at times,” Fitzhugh said.
10 On Your Side visited both of the girls schools Thursday afternoon. Angel Cherry attended Hertford County Middle School, where her classmates hung up posters, pictures, and hearts around her locker in remembrance.
“Our kids are depending on each other, because all of them are going through it at this time, and you can see that they don’t know how to express themselves so they are leaning on each other,” said Brunet Parker, Public Information Officer for Hertford County Public Schools.
Parker said a lot of the students at Hertford County Middle are neighbors or friends of both Angel and Aaliyah Cherry.
Outside of Ahokie Elementary, where Aaliyah Cherry attended school, administrators hung up her pictures. Students also placed a teddy bear in Aaliyah’s chair outside her classroom and filled the hallway with “Rest in Peace” cards.
“She was a teacher’s favorite, she sat right in front of the teacher, and she always wanted to help,” said Stan Warren, Principal of Ahoskie Elementary School. “She was always willing to help her fellow students.”
“They were both very sweet spirited children, they wanted to help, and they liked for people to help them as well,” said Kimberly Scott, Assistant Principal of Ahoskie Elementary School.
The community held two vigils in the girls honor Thursday night. The first was held at New Ahoskie Baptist Church, where the girls both sang in the choir. The second vigil was held outside their home on Mitchell Street. Neighbors, and friends shared memories of the girls, and placed candles at a makeshift memorial outside their home.
“She was nice and sweet,” said friend Tyriek Vaughn. “I am sad to see she got burned in a house fire. It is really sad. I talked to Aaliyah everyday and she rode my bus. Her laugh was contagious. If she laughed, everybody had to laugh.”