Florence boys die in Florence Township blaze

Mother, brother escape fire

By:Vanessa S. Holt
   FLORENCE — A curbside memorial of balloons and stuffed animals marks the Foundry Street house where two boys lost their lives in a house fire on Monday night.
   Their mother and a 4-year-old brother escaped with minor injuries, but the two-story house on the 300 block of Foundry Street was boarded up on Tuesday and a crowd of young people who knew the family gathered outside the house in the late afternoon rain.
   Bianca Davis, 13, a neighbor, said she saw smoke and fire coming from the house just before firefighters arrived and saw the mother of the three children outside, crying for help. Neighbors came to try to offer assistance, she said, but the fire and smoke were too strong. "Everybody was trying to help her," said Bianca.
   Firefighters arrived at the house at 10:17 p.m. to find the first floor engulfed in flames and the two boys, age 8 and 10, trapped on the second floor, police said.
   The three children, Da’Shaun Slater, 10, Damonte Bailey, 8, and Terry Bailey, 4, and their mother, Kayla Slater, 25, had been sleeping when Ms. Slater awoke to find the fire burning in the living room on the first floor. She escaped with her 4-year-old, but when she went back for the two other children intense smoke and fire prevented her from reaching them.
   Firefighters rescued the two boys who had been trapped upstairs but they were pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital, police said. Damonte was taken to Virtua-Memorial Hospital in Mount Holly and Da’Shaun was taken to Rancocas Valley Hospital in Willingboro, said police.
   The fire was placed under control at approximately 10:50 p.m., said police and fire officials. The cause of the fire has not been determined, but it appears to have been accidental, according to Florence Township Fire Chief Edward Kensler.
   Marcus Curry, 12, and Eric Hallett, 13, were among the friends who stopped by the memorial on Tuesday afternoon.
   "They were fun to hang out with," said Marcus, who recalled the boys as athletic and outgoing. Eric said they both loved basketball and football and had great senses of humor.
   The older boy, Da’Shaun, also loved to sing at his church, St. Paul Baptist Church on Fifth Street, said Marcus.
   "He loved to sing for God," Marcus recalled.
   Da’Shaun was in third grade and Damonte was in first grade at the Roebling Elementary School, said friends.
   The 5-foot-high pile of toys that friends and neighbors had piled by the curb included stuffed animals, a football-shaped balloon and a Winnie the Pooh balloon. The memorial was protected from the rain by a clear plastic tarp and a steady stream of young people on foot or on bicycle stopped by to pay their respects on Tuesday afternoon.
   The windows of the house were boarded up and the outside was not severely scorched, but the inside was heavily damaged and not inhabitable, said officials.
   Chief Kensler said the fire appeared to have begun on the first floor toward the front of the building and spread to the stairway. The second floor sustained heat and smoke damage, he said.
   An adjoining house sustained minor smoke and heat damage, he said, but there were no other injuries reported.
   Ms. Slater and the 4-year-old child were treated and released for smoke inhalation from Rancocas Hospital in Willingboro, said officials. Chief Kensler said Tuesday that they were staying with area relatives.
   Florence Township fire companies, Burlington City and Township fire companies, Roebling Rescue Squad and Florence Emergency Squad responded to the fire, said Chief Kensler.
   Police said the investigation is being conducted by the Florence Township fire marshal, Burlington County fire marshal, Florence Township Police Fire Investigation Team and the Burlington County prosecutor’s office.