Statement From Mayor Stothert
"This morning, two young children died in a tragic fire in their home in west Omaha. The mother and sister were also injured in the fire but have survived. This family has suffered an unimaginable loss and as a community, we send our sincere sympathies.
The Omaha firefighters and paramedics worked desperately at the scene but the fire destroyed the mobile home quickly. They are to be commended for their efforts.
We mourn all loss of life. At this time of year, the death of two young children is especially difficult. I hope we will all keep this family and the first responders in our thoughts and prayers."
--Mayor Jean Stothert
A memorial was set up Wednesday night at the scene of a fire in a mobile home that took the lives of two children earlier in the day.
The victims have been identified as 3-year-old Gabriel Rodriguez and his 3-month-old brother Brandon Rodriguez.
One-year-old Adrianna Rodriguez and the children's mother, 18-year-old Champaine Harn, were injured in the fire. Harn was in critical condition at Alegent Creighton Medical Center.
The fire was reported at 8:11 a.m. at Maplewood Estates mobile home park near North 129th Street and West Maple Road.
OFD said the blaze was so intense it took more than 30 minutes to bring it under control.
"They told me that there was babies in there, a 3-month-old and a 3-year-old passed away, didn't make it and they had thrown a little girl out the window," said witness Laurie Thompson. "It's just so devastating."
Just before fire crews arrived, neighbor Rocky Bullinger ran into the flames after hearing Harn's pleas for help.
"My babies in there, you gotta go get my baby, my three month old baby is in there, you got to go get my babies," Bullinger recalls Harn saying. "And the terror in her eyes, and I just went in there and did it."
He tells WOWT it felt like an hour, but in reality he was in the burning home for less than a minute. It is what he heard that brings tears to his eyes.
"I could hear the baby and it was still crying," said Bullinger. He couldn't reach the infant, and had to leave before suffocating from the smoke. Even from outside the cries didn't leave his ringing ears, "I can still hear it, I couldn't get in, I wanted to rip the wall off, I couldn't get it though."
"I told her I was sorry, I couldn't get the baby," said Bullinger.
He then drove himself to the hospital.
The fire hydrant in front of the family's home was not in service. Battalion Chief Olsen said getting water to the fire was not a problem but he did note that, "this is a water-compromised area."
Firefighters knew the mobile home park wasn't like any other neighborhood and had issues with water. For one, it's under private control.
The Metropolitan Utilities District says the mobile home park has approximately 17 fire hydrants but the one in front of the burning home did not work.
While firefighters had a truck with 1,000 gallons on it and say the broken hydrant didn't impact this case, it still raises neighbors’ concerns.
"Especially it being this close to my home,” said Don Roeder. “I'm totally concerned about that. I'm sure that will be investigated further."
The park owners are responsible for maintaining the hydrants. Fire investigators noticed another hydrant not far the scene that had been damaged. Firefighters are not sure if they would have been able to get it to work if it had been needed.