Family seeks donations to help with funeral expenses for Louisiana teen, uncle who died in house fire

Published 11:26 am Wednesday, March 22, 2023

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An online fundraiser seeks to help cover funeral expenses for a Pineville, Louisiana, teen and her uncle who died in a house fire on Saturday.

Serenity Sullivan, 16, and and Booker T. Gray, 54, died in the fire at a home in the 500 block of Grant Street early Saturday.

“Serenity’s smile could brighten your entire day,” her mother Kelsey Armstrong wrote in on the GoFundMe page. “She loved music and was a violin player. She also loved talking with her friends and spending time with her pet Yorkie Saide, whom we also lost in this tragic accident.”

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Armstrong described her uncle as mentally disabled. “He too was also a joy to be around. He loved his counseling group, painting and going to church,” she writes.

The GoFundMe is seeking donations to help offset the double funeral expense and living expenses for the remaining family, who lost their home. You can donate here.

The fire was reported about 2:30 a.m. Saturday. When firefighters arrived, they located four people outside of the home reporting that two more were still inside. Their bodies were later located in what was believed to have been the stairwell and the living room which was below a second-floor bedroom that had collapsed into the living room.

Deputies learned there were six people in the home at the time of the fire — a grandmother and her brother, her two adult sons and two grandchildren, one a 16-year-old girl and the other a 5-month-old boy.

Following interviews with the survivors, deputies learned everyone in the home was asleep in the house except one individual who returned home late after a work shift. The man reported seeing the front porch on fire several minutes after coming back inside from smoking a cigarette. He told deputies he first woke up his brother who was sleeping in the living room then attempted to put the fire out with water. He then went upstairs to alert the rest of the occupants which included his mother and the two young relatives who were all sleeping in the same room. The man told deputies he helped his mother out of a second-story bathroom window before dropping the baby to his brother below who caught the infant safely. Once he also escaped out of the second-story window, the group realized the teen and the grandmother’s brother were still inside.

At this time, deputies have determined the fire began on the front porch and was an accident related to smoking near combustible materials. In addition, the family also reported using the home’s oven to warm the house overnight. While the oven is not believed to be the initial cause of the fire, it is a dangerous home heating practice that the SFM would like to remind Louisiana families not to utilize when cold weather hits.