City woman recovering from burns in rescue try

Posted: June 20, 2013

The Winchester Star

Toys, stuffed animals, children’s books and clothing have been left on the front porch of the North Kent Street home where a 2-year-old boy died in a house fire on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)
An angel figurine and a flower are among the items left at the scene of the fatal fire.
Christian Cruz
The building at 300-302 N. Kent St. where the fire occurred has been boarded up. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — The woman whose young son died in a Kent Street fire on Tuesday is recovering in a burn unit.

Officials identified the victim as Christian Cruz, 2.

He was pulled from his family’s apartment at 300-302 N. Kent St. shortly before 1 p.m., and was later pronounced dead at Winchester Medical Center.

His mother, Sherry Dominguez, suffered second- and third-degree burns to her body, and injuries to her lungs and throat, according to Marry Ford, who is engaged to Dominguez’s brother Lynwood Everhart.

She said Dominguez is in the Burn Center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

“She’s doing a little bit better, but she wants to go home to be with her babies,” Ford said on Wednesday.

She said Dominguez’s four other children — 4-week-old Anelia Dominguez, 3-year-old twins Jaime and Carlitos Cruz and Christian’s twin Johanna Cruz — were not injured in the fire.

Those children are staying at Ford’s and Everhart’s home in Remington.

“The babies are all fine,” Ford said of the children.

City firefighters were dispatched to the blaze at 12:38 p.m. Tuesday, Chief Frank Wright said.

They arrived at the house, which is divided into several apartments, at 12:42 p.m., and an ambulance left with Christian at 12:52 p.m., he said.

Minutes after the child was carried out of the home in the arms of a firefighter, neighbor Annette Bell described the tragic chain of events.

She was on her front porch when Dominguez ran onto her own porch, screaming, “Oh, my God! My babies!”

Bell called 911 as she rushed to the Dominguez home, where she helped to move Anelia away from the fire, and then went to the side door where Dominguez had entered the home in an attempt to save her other children.

During the rescue efforts, Dominguez became unconscious due to apparent smoke inhalation, Bell said. But the mother recovered, realized Christian was still in the burning home and ran back inside.

At least one Frederick County deputy also rushed inside before the fire department arrived, according to witnesses.

Ford described her future sister-in-law as a “wreck.”

“They just told her today about him passing,” she said.

The family suspects that the fire was caused by a gas leak.

Ford said Dominguez had twice reported to the fire department a possible leak in the apartment. On the second occasion, she said, firefighters told Dominguez about a faint odor of gas.

“She just told her mother the other day about reporting it and nothing being done,” Ford said.

Reached at home on Wednesday evening, Wright said he did not have the department’s call records with him.

Earlier in the day, he said the fire is under investigation, and that he hoped to have more information by Friday. He said the main fire was extinguished within 10 to 15 minutes.

Yellow police tape surrounded the brick two-story home on Wednesday afternoon.

Someone had placed a votive candle and an angel figurine in front of the residence and flowers had been taped to an electrical line on the side of the building.

Plywood covered the windows and doors on the front and south side of the house. Shards from the broken windows littered plants on the side.

Blackened furniture, children’s clothing and other debris were piled on the porch. A small charred teddy bear lay in the center of the porch.

In the wake of the incident, the community has rallied to support the family.

A Facebook page titled “Donations for Christian’s Family” was set up on Tuesday night, and at least two area businesses — Posh Pets Boutique at 16 S. Loudoun St., and Crown Trophy at 1850 S. Loudoun St. (in the Apple Federal Credit Union building) — have been set up as donation drop-off sites.

The family lost all it had, Ford said.

“When [Dominguez] gets out, I don’t know where they’re going to live,” she said. “They have no home now.”

Ford said that if they have nowhere else to go, they will continue to stay in her home.

Sharon Farinholt, who owns Crown Trophy, said donations started arriving within an hour after the business was named as a drop-off site on Facebook.

“Everybody’s definitely jumping in to help,” she said. “We’re just very sorry for the family and what they’re going through, and really wish there was more that we could do during this difficult time, and our prayers are definitely going out to them.

“It’s just heartbreaking. You just don’t realize how fast things can change.”

Donation drop-off sites continue to be added to the Facebook page, and a site was set up for monetary donations for the family to help with funeral and other costs. That site is youcaring.com/other/structure-fire-claims-life-of-2yr-old-mother-4-kids-safe-/67373.

Dominguez’s friend Susan Barnhart of Martinsburg, W.Va., spent Wednesday picking up donations for the family. She said they included a car seat-stroller travel system, playpen, diapers and clothes.

Barnhart said she can pick up items in the Martinsburg area and can be reached at 304-820-4490.

— Contact Sally Voth at svoth@winchesterstar.com