The tragedy has shaken up the community, who decided to come together to support the devastated family in their time of need.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on August 27, 2021. It has since been updated.
A community in St. Louis is collectively mourning the unimaginable loss of five kids, who lost their precious life in a raging house fire. The deceased children, who were siblings, were laid to rest in an emotional ceremony on Saturday, August 21. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2-year-old Loy-el Dunigan, 4-year-old Jabari Johnson, 8-year-old twins Heaven and Neveah Denigann, and 9-year-old Deontae Davis were buried in custom-build caskets. "These children were wonderful children," said funeral director Walter Terry while speaking to Fox affiliate KTVI.
"If you look at the caskets, each casket reflects their personal desires. The games they played with, the toys they liked, the colors they were interested in," explained Terry of the caskets that featured the pictures of the kids along with colorful depictions of butterflies, ponies, and video games scenes. "If you look at the casket, it's really a glimpse of their young lives," he added. According to PEOPLE, a fire broke out on August 6 at the 500 block of 29th Street in East St. Louis, Illinois, right after Sabrina Dunigan had put her kids to bed and left the house to pick up her boyfriend.
5 Siblings Buried Together in Custom Caskets After St. Louis Fire: 'The Community Is Hurting' https://t.co/WbyUkgHWip— People (@people) August 23, 2021
By the time she returned, it was too late. The second-floor apartment was already engulfed in flames. While the mother made efforts to rescue her kids herself, her attempts tragically turned out to be unsuccessful. When help arrived, four of her children were pronounced dead at the scene. One of them sadly died while being transported to a hospital. According to the East St. Louis Fire Department, the fire started around 3:45 a.m. It remains unclear whether the building had working smoke alarms or not. The cause of the fire is currently being investigated by the Illinois State Fire Marshal and the Illinois State Police Department.
Currently, officials are trying to support the family get through this terrible tragedy. "Our focus is on the family and we’re trying to find opportunities to assist them in getting through the tragedy," shared Serenity Memorial Chapel Funeral Director Walter Taylor. In the wake of the heartbreaking event, members of the Metro East community assembled at the Greater St. Marks Church of God and Christ to celebrate the lives of the little ones who passed away in the fire. "They’re a young family. Young children, they had a lot to live for," shared Terry.
Understandably, the tragedy has shaken up the community, who decided to come together to support the devastated family in their time of need. "East St. Louis has always been a one that will come together in a time of tragedy and uh I’m not surprised I’m just so thankful during a pandemic season we come together and support one another," shared Pastor Mark Ratliff, Sr. Apart from expressing their sorrow, funeral attendees empathized with the grieving mother by sharing lots of supportive messages.
"We all know, your whole entire family knows, that you were a great mom and loved those children, shared Sheila Dunigan, the children's great-aunt. "The community is hurting," said East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III ahead of the service according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. "We stand in support of the mom, emotionally and spiritually." According to Belleville News-Democrat, "Even though I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting these children, I know that they were a crucial part of this community. It shows. ... The community of East St. Louis and the city of East St. Louis, we stand with you."
Cover image source: GoFundMe | Help mom give her 5 babies homegoing they deserve