A sleepover for five children turned into a fiery nightmare Saturday after a predawn blaze at a Newnan house killed a mother and four girls who were under 5 years old.
Nautica McCrary, an 11-year-old girl who escaped through a bedroom window, was treated and released from a local hospital Saturday morning for smoke inhalation. She told relatives that her mother, 27-year-old Alonna McCrary, could have gotten out, but she stayed inside to rescue the younger girls, who were spending the night together.
“She just insisted she wasn’t going to let them babies go,” said Roxanne Arnold of Newnan, who said she is the 11-year-old’s aunt. “That’s what I applaud her for. She was risking her own life to get the babies.”
The children killed were identified as: Eriel McCrary, 5, Messiah White, 3, Nikia White, 2, and McKenzie Florence, who is either 1 or 2 years old.
Several of the girls were related. Alonna was mother to Eriel, Nautica, and Nikia, and the three youngest shared the same father.
Investigators believe the fire started because of a faulty breaker in an electrical panel in the den of the single-story brick home. The cause was ruled accidental.
A neighbor called to report the blaze shortly after 1 a.m.
The 11-year-old, whose nickname is Molly, told relatives that all the girls were asleep in her bedroom when her mother ran in screaming “Molly, get up!” and somehow busted out the bedroom window.
“She couldn’t see anything, they were bumping into each other,” Arnold said. “They had to feel around and she was hollering and screaming. Her mother kept telling her to get out.”
At some point, a neighbor pulled Molly through the window to safety, and she passed out in the front yard. Arnold said she waited until after Molly was released from the hospital to break the news that her mother and two sisters had died. Right now, Arnold said, the 11-year-old is in shock and just wants to be with her grandmother.
Relatives said Alonna McCrary often got the girls together at her house for weekend sleepovers and outings. She wanted the girls to grow up close, said Arnold.
Arnold said that Alonna McCrary called her landlord a few days ago about getting electrical problems repaired. The man came over Thursday or Friday, but didn’t fix it, according to Arnold.
“It’s so hard,” Arnold said, breaking down in tears over the phone. “If you just had went on and fixed it…this would never have occurred.”
Arnold said that her niece lost everything in the fire, but some friends from Molly’s school have already talked about taking her shopping to replace some of her belongings. She said Molly went to Evans Middle School.
Ralph Hudgens, the Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner, said there was a smoke alarm in the house, but it was so badly damaged from the fire that it was impossible to tell whether it was functioning.
“Really right now, the whole state is mourning the loss of these four children and the mother,” Hudgens said. “We’re all very saddened by this.”