Jackson girl saved brother in Sunday's apartment fire

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A 10-year-old girl saved her 5-year-old brother's life by dragging him through smoke and down the stairs of their apartment on Easter Sunday, the siblings' mother said Wednesday.

"I woke up seeing nothing but flames," said Amber Longhibler, 28, of 122 S. Bellevue St. Longhibler had just put her three children to nap upstairs about an hour earlier and dozed on her couch while watching a movie. When she awoke shortly after 2 p.m., a blaze blocked access to the front door and the stairs from the living room.

As Longhibler scrambled to put out the fire and reach her children upstairs, a neighbor heard her cries for help, ran inside the apartment and grabbed her daughter, Jocelyn O'Neal, 10. But before the neighbor could leave with Jocelyn, the young girl took her brother Anthony Ramey, 5, and led him out of the apartment, Longhibler said.

As the neighbor and two children headed down the stairs and out the door, Anthony passed out. His sister dragged him out of the home, their mother said.

Not knowing her children were safe, Longhibler continued to fight the fire with a bucket of water to reach them, she said. It was then she saw her youngest daughter, Jaden Longhibler, 2, hiding in a corner crying.

Jocelyn, who did not know where Jaden was, started to run back into the apartment to look for her sister, but she was stopped by the neighbor, Longhibler said. Once the neighbor and Longhibler found out from one another the children were safe, Longhibler grabbed Jaden and ran out a back door.

"I have a little 10-year-old hero and a neighbor I can't thank enough," she said.

The fire spread throughout the apartment, which is no longer habitable, Jackson's assistant fire chief Les Crump said.

A burning candle was likely the cause, Crump said. Longhibler suspected Jaden awoke from her nap and accidentally bumped a table, knocking the candle over.

According to Longhibler, there were no smoke detectors installed in the home.

Building manager Don Werner said the apartment had recently been rehabilitated. In the rush to allow the family to move in, the smoke detectors may not have been reinstalled, something Werner called an "oversight."


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