Family, friends and community members packed a Bridgeport church on Bunnell Street Monday evening for a vigil in memory of Sincere Pettway, the 3-year-old girl who died in a condo fire early Sunday morning.
"For her to be three years, my baby had an impact on everybody’s life," Sincere's granmother, Christie Gray said. "And on behalf of both sides of the family we are truly grateful."
Afterwards, they released dozens of white balloons and lit candles in the street.
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“Everybody loved that little girl,” said Sincere’s aunt Shameeka Santiago. “She was only here for three years, but she like impacted everybody and she came and made everybody happy no matter what the situation was.”
Family members say Sincere’s mother Shaneese Pettway is being treated for burns and smoke inhalation she suffered helping three other children escape and while trying to find her daughter in the smoke filled apartment. Shaneese is still hospitalized and was unable to attend the vigil.
"All I heard for the past two days was what kind of hero she was and that’s what I look at her as today," Sincere's cousin, Gigi Pettway told NBC Connecticut. "Saving those other kids in spite of her own child, you know, passing away."
Sunday’s fatal fire is the second major incident Bridgeport firefighters have responded to in the past week. Firefighters battled a blaze on New Year’s Eve that displaced more than a hundred people and destroyed a condo complex on Charles Street.
“It’s a heavy burden put on the department,” Bridgeport Fire Chief Brian Rooney said, “especially, when we see a fatality-- especially when it’s a young child like that.”
While firefighters found damage in the kitchen Sunday morning, Chief Rooney said the cause and origin of the deadly fire have not been determined.
“Whether or not there were working smoke alarms in that apartment, right now that’s still under investigation,” Rooney said.
As fire marshals from the state and Bridgeport investigate whether something was wrong with the condo’s smoke alarms, Chief Brian Rooney is reminding Bridgeport residents they can acquire them for free through the Safe Asleep Smoke Alarm Program.
“That’s what a smoke alarm is,” Rooney said, “it’s the first line of defense.”
Since launching the free smoke alarm program in 2005, the Bridgeport fire department has installed nearly 50,000 smoke detectors. The chief said they’ve helped save lives during 130 fires.
Santiago said Shaneese was in better shape Monday compared to the day of the fire, but she is still struggling to cope with the loss of her baby.
“If they could pray for Shaneese that she can – I can’t even say move on from it,” Santiago said, “That she can, I don’t even know what to say.”