Jamaicans donate to help bury Bronx fire victims

NEW YORK, United States — The family of the four Jamaicans who died in last Thursday’s fire in the Bronx have opened a GoFundMe account in the hope of raising enough money to have the bodies returned to Jamaica for burial.

The target is US$100,000 and as of early yesterday the site reported contributions totalling just over US$13,000 from 350 contributors, a day after it was started.

Karen Stewart-Francis, her daughters Kylie Francis, 2; and Shantae Young, 18; and stepdaughter Kelesha Francis, 7, were among 12 people who died after being trapped in the fast-moving blaze.

Stewart-Francis’s husband, Holt Francis, remained on life support at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx yesterday.

Media reports here yesterday said doctors have informed the family that his prognosis is grim, but they are not ready to have him removed from life support.

Yesterday, Una Clarke, Jamaican and former councilwoman in the 4th district of New York, told the Observer that the diaspora in Brooklyn intend to help the family.

“We don’t want to leave a Jamaican family out there when the rest of us here are able to help out, but we want to ensure that we have a coordinated plan,” Clarke said.

“I don’t want to see like five or six different groups trying to do different things. I want to make sure that the folks who have the greatest weight and know exactly what to do are all together so we can help,” she explained, adding that lack of cohesiveness in an effort to help might result in no help at all.

“A tragedy like this speaks to the heart and soul of everyone around, and for us having just gone through the tragic death of Lowell Hawthorne, who was also in the same area, reminds us that no man is an island,” Clarke said.

Hawthorne, a co-founder of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery and Grill, committed suicide inside his factory early last month.

Clarke, who is also president of the Progressive Democrat Political Association in Brooklyn and mother to Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, said the diaspora is mourning the deaths of all 12 victims of the apartment fire, because “we know how devastating this must be for family members, especially around this time when everyone is in a joyful mood”.

Last Thursday’s deaths marked the second time in seven years that tragedy has hit a Jamaican family here. On September 10, 2010 four members of another family died when a church bus in which they were travelling blew a rear tyre and overturned in upstate New York, killing six members of Joy Fellowship Christian Church in the Bronx.

The four Jamaicans in that tragedy hailed from Spring Village in St Catherine.

Police say last Thursday’s fire was accidentally started by a three-year-old boy who was playing with the knobs on a stove in the first floor apartment where he lived with his mother and another sibling. The mother and her kids escaped alive.

Scores of Jamaicans and people of other nationalities have collected food, clothing and other supplies to assist survivors of the fire.The drive to provide assistance was launched by the office of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Bronx Borough president’s office, the New York Police Department, and the Fire Department of New York, among others.

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