'She was a beautiful spirit’: Candlelight vigil held for woman killed in Richmond house fire

Updated: Oct. 23, 2020 at 9:20 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - One week after a blind Richmond woman was killed during a house fire, family, friends and community members gathered to remember her life.

Just before 2 a.m. on Oct. 16, Richmond Fire crews responded to a home in the 200 block of Plazaview Road, just off East Belt Boulevard.

“When the first crew arrived, they could see heavy fire and smoke coming from the rear of the structure. Crews reported from a mile away, they could see a lot of smoke and fire,” said Richmond Fire Lieutenant Chris Armstrong.

When crews arrived on scene, Armstrong said they found one of the tenants outside.

The second tenant, a blind woman, was still in the house. Armstrong said she was on the phone with dispatchers, telling them she smelled smoke as she tried to escape the burning home, but was unable to make it outside.

Firefighters were able to eventually locate her in the home and bring her out.

“They were working on her; they were on top of her doing the chest compressions and then they took her away," said next-door neighbor Tara Mattox. "I didn’t know she had perished, though.”

Family members identified the woman as 46-year-old Shene' “Nae-Nae” T. Dickens.

“She was my best friend,” said Jolinda Dickens, Shene’s younger sister. “She was my biggest support system I had, my confidant. She was a beautiful spirit, so fun and so funny.”

Those are the memories Jolinda is holding onto tightly because the thought of her sister’s final moments hurts too much.

“Just to think about her and not being able to get out, and the fear I know she had devastates us, my family,” Jolinda said. “It devastates me, I’m barely making it.” Both

Jolinda and Shene' have a disability called retinitis pigmentosa which causes vision loss. According to Jolinda, Shene' was able to see somewhat during the daytime, but at night it was virtually impossible.

“Dark situations, and I know there was smoke - she was 100% disabled; She couldn’t see,” she added.

Another man who lived in the house was able to escape. In an interview, he told NBC12 he alerted firefighters about Shene' still being inside the house.

“Something said if you go back in that fire you’re going to die, and I didn’t go back in,” said Kalvin Talley. “That just broke me down...”

“Somebody could have gotten her out of that room,” Jolinda said.

On Friday at 5 p.m. community members held a candlelight prayer vigil near the house where Shene' lived.

“She’s the type of person who would have said ‘all of this for me?'” Jolinda said. “And I want her to know that all of this is for you Shene’, we love you.”

On Friday a spokesman for the Richmond Fire Department said the cause was still under investigation.

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