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‘Worst feeling in the world:’ Mother heartbroken after losing 4-year-old son, grandfather in fire

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Tinna Clark

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee County medical examiner on Thursday, March 14 identified the 4-year-old boy and 67-year-old man who died in a fire near 39th and Silver Spring on Wednesday. The medical examiner said the fire was sparked by a candle.

"I would have never thought I'd be burying one of my kids! Ever," said Tinna Clark.

Clark and her six children moved into the home at 39th and Silver Spring in the fall.

"I'm just lost. I've cried so much. I can't cry no more. This is the worst feeling in the world," said Clark.

Rayveon Cunningham and Gary Pitts

The victims were identified as Rayveon Cunningham, 4, (Clark's son) and Gary Pitts, 67, (Clark's grandfather). The preliminary manner of death was ruled an accident for both. Both died at the hospital.

"Him and my grandfather were like Bonnie and Clyde. They were close -- closer to each other than they were to me," said Clark.

The medical examiner's report said Pitts had disabilities -- and more than 50 percent of his body was burned. The 4-year-old boy suffered burns to his face, right arm and right chest, and had soot in his airway.

The report said arriving firefighters found the front of the single-family, two-story, wood-framed home in flames, with smoke coming out of the house. Some neighbors broke windows, which the report said accelerated the fire. Firefighters entered through a window on the second floor and found Pitts on his bed. The 4-year-old boy was found in the floor at the foot of the bed, the report said.

"He hated that he wasn't in school yet. When other kids would leave to go to school, he'd ask to ride with you. He wanted to go to school so bad. Now, he'll never go to school," said Clark.

Clark, 21, and an infant were upstairs at the time. They were able to get out of the home.

Paul Johnson, a close friend, is helping the family get back on their feet. He said Clark sacrificed so much for her family -- saving up to move into the home. Clark does not have insurance. A account was set up to help pay funeral expenses.

Paul Johnson

"It's just terrible. All the work she has put into this place -- bettering her situation with her kids and family. It's just tough to see," said Johnson.

According to the report, a candle had been burning in the living room, and the fire began near the living room couch -- just inside the front door. The report said the fire would be listed as "undetermined" and there were no suspicions of arson. There was extensive fire damage to the front of the home and the front porch.

"This is the worst way to go. It's horrible. I couldn't imagine how scared my son was," said Clark.

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The report noted investigators were not able to locate smoke detectors in the home, however, the drywall on the ceiling was burned, so they weren't sure whether there were smoke detectors in the home.

Officials with the Milwaukee Fire Department planned to go door-to-door in the neighborhood Friday morning to hand out smoke detectors to residents. If you are in need of a smoke alarm, please call the Smoke Alarm Hotline at 414-286-8980 to have one installed free of charge by the Milwaukee Fire Department.

Fire at 39th and Silver Spring, Milwaukee

Fire at 39th and Silver Spring, Milwaukee

"This takes a toll. It takes a toll on all of us," said Assistant Chief David Votsis, Milwaukee Fire Department.

Firefighters rushed into the burning home and pulled the man and boy out. They were not breathing and both did not have a pulse. Paramedics were unable to revive them.

"They were in that door seconds after being on-scene and they had both of those people out of the building in a minute-and-a-half," said Chief Votsis. "There is absolutely nothing we could have done any better."

Loved ones held a vigil for the victims Thursday night. Family and friends came together, and placed balloons and stuffed animals near the scene of the tragic fire and remembered their spirit.

Vigil for victims who died in house fire near 39th and Silver Spring

Vigil for victims who died in house fire near 39th and Silver Spring

"They'll be truly missed, they definitely will be missed and it's just sad they had to leave this way," said Laniece Greenwood, family member.

Vigil for victims who died in house fire near 39th and Silver Spring

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