Her twin sister Kiara managed to escape the fire unhurt.
Police report that at about 8 am, Brenda Millette, 55, had dressed her granddaughters, Kimora and Kiara, in their blue checkered uniforms and left them in a bedroom to watch television while they waited for their transport to arrive to take them to pre-school.
Tragedy struck, police said, when Kimora, playing with a cigarette lighter, accidentally set fire to a pillow. In quick time, the fire spread to the mattress and caught other flammable material, engulfing the bedroom which had one window.
Kiara survived because she ran out of the bedroom to alert her grandmother who at the time was attending to customers in the parlour she operates in front of the family’s home at Betsy Street, La Romaine.
Neighbours quickly formed a bucket brigade and brought the fire under control. However, it was too late as investigators believed Kimora was overcome by the intense smoke. Her body was found in a crouched position in a corner of the bedroom where she had gone to escape the fire.
Investigators said Kiara got out of the bedroom with the lighter in her hand and showed it to her grandmother telling her Kimora was playing with it and the pillow had caught afire. The girls were left in the care of their grandmother and her preparing them for preschool every morning was a routine exercise, relatives said.
Parents Ronan Millette, an employee of Damus Ltd, and his common-law wife Marsha Carrabano, a safety officer, were already at their workplaces in Caroni and Galeota when they received the horrific news of their daughter’s death.
They were inconsolable when they returned to their home. At one time, Ronan collapsed when the district medical officer removed the covers to view the little girl’s body before it was taken to the Forensic Science Centre, St James for an autopsy.
Also as undertakers were removing the body, Donna Banfield, 54, who was a customer in the parlour, screamed uncontrollably.
A grandmother of four, Banfield cried out as she held her belly, “Why Lord? Why these things happening to our children? God knows I can’t function anymore. What is happening to our children?” She lamented, “Only last night I saw those girls, pretty little girls, running around, everybody loved Kimora. I have my grandchildren too and is just to focus on the children Lord.”
Residents, old and young, wept as Kimora’s body was taken away. They remembered her as a child full of life running around in the neighbourhood. Kimora and her sister were pupils of Headstart Pre-School at Pond Street, La Romaine.
Banfield recalled talking to Brenda in the parlour when Kiara came out and raised the alarm about the fire.
She said, “This is a close-knit community and I ran out in the road and start to bawl and all the neighbours from far down the street run up the road. They form a bucket brigade but it was too late. I was shaking.”
She said the efforts of neighbours to rescue Kimora failed as the heavy smoke prevented them from going into the house.
“The whole house was black with smoke, neighbours couldn’t get in the room,” Banfield told Newsday. She was high in praise of her community and the way they came together yesterday.
It was only last month the twins celebrated their fourth birthday.
When Kimora’s grieving mother returned to the house, at about 10.30 am, from Galeota, she broke down as she entered the yard. She was later taken away. Ronan later told reporters she was not handling the death well and had to seek medical attention. He said Kimora, whose favourite cartoon was the dinosaur character Barney, was the one who would always be the first to greet him when he returned home from work on afternoons.
He said, “Out of the two of them, twins you know, she was the most loving. She was outgoing. She would meet me and want to go for drive. People does be saying right through, is only when it reach on your front step then you know. It has reached on mine now and I have to deal with it.”
Ronan, a father of five, said he was trying to stay strong for the rest of the members of his family.
Kathleen Skerrit, owner/teacher of the pre-school, was on hand to offer comfort to Kiara who survived the ordeal. She hugged her.
“I came here to give my support,” she said. “I will always remember Kimora for her favorite song, ‘Your are my sunshine.’ She was a child who loved to clap and sing and always had a song in her heart. Kimora was such a happy child.”
Officers of the Fire Prevention Department, San Fernando yesterday called on adults to keep items such as matches and cigarette lighters in a secure place and out of the reach of children.
A senior fire officer told Newsday, “Children are often fascinated by fires and that is why those items should be kept out of their reach.” Fire officers were not surprised to find Kimora’s body in the corner of the room.
“Any fire involving children always look for them hiding in a corner, they become afraid that they may be scolded or they are overcome by the smoke,” the fire officer said.
Member of Parliament Oropouche West Stacy Roopnarine who visited the family and extended her condolences has offered to assist the family with the burial of the child.
A team of officers led by ASP Yusuff Gaffar and including Insp Don Gajadhar, Sgts Tambie and Pacheco and Cpls Reid and Morales, Crime Scene Investigations (CSI) visited the scene. Acting Fire Station Officer (FSO) Lalchan Arjoon and a team of officers from the Fire Prevention Department are continuing investigations.
Kimora’s death is the latest fatal incident involving a child to deeply affect the nation. To date, 17 children, age 12 and under, have lost their lives in tragic circumstances, including murder, drowning, fires and freak accidents. Six of those deaths occurred this month.
Tragic deaths of children 12 and Under
1. Jaylon Isaac, 2, died eight days after he was admitted to the EWMSC, Mt Hope in February.
An autopsy confirmed the child died as a result of neurogenic complications arising from deprivation of oxygen to the brain as a result of him choking on Jell-O.
2. Baby Simeon, seven-month-old, died while his mother Quelly Ann Cottle had a Caesarian-section at Mt Hope Women’s Hospital on March 1.
3. Ekeziel Bacchus, three days old, was found dead at his family home in Princes Town on March 9.
4. Kadaisha Edwards, 12, was hit by a vehicle along the Priority Bus Route in the vicinity of Morvant on March 13 and succumbed her injuries at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital.
5 & 6. Omari & Keanna Mayers, 10 months and 3 years, respectively, were found dead in Matura on April 13. Their father Barry Karamath who committed suicide was found at their side.
7. Akielah Gill, three-months-old, was found dead at her Sea Lots home April 18. An autopsy revealed she choked to death on her own vomit.
8. Devindra Boodoo, 11, committed suicide in El Socorro on May 7, the day before he was due to write the SEA exam.
9. Jaedon Cudjoe, 17 months, died after he was left in his grandfather’s car in Penal on May 13.
10. Shivani Straugh, 17-days-old, was found unresponsive at home in Freeport on May 18. She was rushed to the Couva Health Facility were she eventually died.
Autopsy revealed she suffered from multiple organ failure, but could not confirm the exact cause of death.
11. Xavier de Freitas, 3, dies in a fire at Sea Lots on May 28.
12. Jadel Holder, 9, was shot and killed in Morvant on June 1.
13. Kriston Gonzales, 22 months, drowned in a pound in Mayaro on June 1.
14. Jeminah Agard, 5, drowned in a pool at the YMCA in Woodbrook, on June 2.
15. Matai Phillip, 10 months, died at a daycare in Chaguanas on June 6. An autopsy revealed he died as a result of positional asphyxia.
16. Jesicca Mohammed, five months, dies at hospital on June 8, a week after being involved in a vehicular accident .
17. Kimora Mitchell, 4, dies in a fire at La Romaine on June 17.