Family & friends grieve toddler killed in Petersburg trailer fire

Leshay Yates
Leshay Yates

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - Friends and family members are remembering a two-year-old girl killed in a fire at a Petersburg mobile home park.

Firefighters are still trying to figure out what caused the fire that killed Leshay Yates just after midnight at the Spring Gardens Mobile Home Park.

"She's special, always singing dancing, full of life. She was always happy," said Yates' cousin Evelyn Burgess. "It really hasn't hit me yet. I loved her like she was my own. She was very special to me.

One neighbor says she called police right away when she saw flames shooting several feet out of the home off County Road near Petersburg National Battlefield. While her parents and brother were able to escape, Yates wasn't as fortunate.

Her aunt says Yates' father attempted to rescue her. "He tried to go in and burned himself," said Loretta Gonzalez. "He couldn't get to her because the whole hallway was on fire."

Fire crews knew they had to act quickly when they got the call that a child was trapped inside.

"Always, when somebody is trapped, we rely on our training to get us here as fast as we can," said Petersburg Fire Capt. Danny Partin.

Partin and his men tried to get in through the front door but the fire destroyed the structure making that impossible. Next, they tore down walls near the kitchen and the bedroom to try and rescue the toddler inside.

"When they catch on fire they burn quick," said Partin. "If you're not there in an instant, they can get away from you."

The closest hydrant was also a ways down the road, which made it even tougher to put the fire out quickly.

"She was a precious little girl," said Chamberland, a neighbor who knew the family and the little girl. "She was a little thing. Her eyes were perky and smiley. "She just had that way about her. She had that spark of life in her."

While the Red Cross helps the family, fire crews continue to re-construct the scene. They took the roof off and put it together on the ground. They also snapped pictures from the ground and in the air. Fire crews will continue to sift through the rubble and dig for clues for days.

"When firefighters come to work, all the citizens are basically our family," said Partin. "Unfortunately, when you have things like this, no matter how hard we try, these things happen."

"My heart goes out to the family and all the family members," said Chamberland. "I'm sorry."

"I hope she didn't suffer," said Gonzalez. "I hope God grabbed her."

The parents and their seven-year-old son managed to get out okay. Firefighters urge everyone to check their smoke alarms and install them if they don't already have one.

Also, they encourage people to change their batteries twice a year during Daylight Saving Time. If need a fire alarm installed, call the Petersburg Fire Department at 733-2412.

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