A fire at an overnight daycare center in Erie, Pennsylvania during the early hours of Sunday, August 11, took the lives of five young children—four of whom belonged to one mother.
Mom Shevona Overton had been working when the blaze tore through Harris Family Daycare, a residential-home-turned-daycare-center open to children whose parents work late. She told local CBS affiliate Erie News Now that her four children were La’Myhia Jones, 8; Luther Jones Jr., 6; Ava Jones, 4; and Jaydan Augustyniak, 9 months. Dalvin Pacley, 2, was also killed in the fire.
“I’m just so hurt my babies are gone,” Shevona told CBS affiliate Erie News Now. “I love them dearly. I just hurt inside knowing that my kids were fighting and hurting in that fire. Every minute, I feel the same pain.”
To lose one child is any parent’s worst nightmare. To lose four at once is unimaginable.
“I’m never going to be the same,” Shevona said. “I lost a piece of me that can never be replaced. It’s just something I have to live with, and it’s going to be hard to do.”
Lawrence Park Township Volunteer Fire Chief Joe Crotty told CBS that volunteer firefighter Luther Jones was the father of three of the children killed in the fire. Luther was tending to a nearby fire when Harris Family Daycare started billowing smoke around 1:15 a.m.
The daycare was found in compliance with a December 28, 2018 Department of Human Services Office of Child Development and Early Learning inspection. However, a January 3, 2019 inspection note stated that “ashes and cigarette or cigar butts” were found in “a child care space, play space or food preparation area,” according to CBS. Another inspection note stated that “protective receptacle covers shall be placed in electrical outlets accessible to children 5 years of age or younger.” Both issues were later listed as corrected. As of Sunday, the cause of fire was still under investigation.
The Erie Fire Department posted to their Facebook page that seven people were rescued from the building, but only the five children were killed. They gave their condolences to those affected, and shared a relief fund for Shevona and Luther.
“We would like to thank all agencies who assisted the Erie Fire Department. Call takers, dispatchers, medics, police officers and firefighters all worked together as a team to try to save these beautiful children,” Local Erie Firefighters President Len Trott said in a statement on the Facebook page. “You hope that calls like this never happen, but unfortunately they do. We will continue to do our jobs, continue to help people in need, and we will never forget the children lost in this devastating fire.”