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Fund-raising drive underway to pay for funeral of child killed in Ruskin fire

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image The blaze completely gutted the Carmona family’s home on 18th Street in Ruskin. Photo Kevin Brady

The fire also destroyed the family’s truck and left the Carmonas with little more than the clothes on their backs.

By Kevin Brady
Family and friends of Alejandra Carmona, who died in a Ruskin mobile-home fire on Valentine’s Day, are trying to raise money to help pay for the four-year-old child’s funeral.

Her father, Monico Carmona, and two of her siblings were still in the hospital Sunday, Feb. 16, after the fire engulfed their home at a Ruskin mobile-home park in the 400 block of 18th Street late Friday night.

Monico Carmona suffered serious burns, cuts and smoke inhalation as he tried to rescue his children, his girlfriend and two other young children. All managed to escape the blaze, which is being blamed on a short circuit in the home’s electrical wiring. The family’s dog also died in the blaze.

“They were sleeping when the fire started, and Monico noticed smoke coming from beside his bed,” said Irene Valdez, the victim’s grandmother, who is organizing a fund-raising drive to pay for Alejandra’s funeral. “He thinks it was started by an electrical connection in the room.”

Monico and his girlfriend rushed out of the bedroom, carrying their two youngest children, Angel, 7 months, and Lexi, 2, from the home.

“He went back in to find Alejandra, crawling along the floor in the children’s room to find her, but he had to run out because he couldn’t breathe anymore, and then he just collapsed,” Valdez said.

A neighbor then broke a window in the children’s room, calling to the trapped child. “He couldn’t see her but he heard her crying,” Valdez said, “and yelled ‘Come to me. Come to my voice,’ but she was probably in shock and couldn’t move.”

Overcome by smoke, cuts and burns, the neighbor had to pull back from the window. The neighbor “couldn’t breathe, and after that he couldn’t hear her anymore, so she probably just collapsed from the smoke,” Valdez said. “Monico now blames himself for the fire. He is very traumatized.”

Monico and his girlfriend, who also suffered severe burns to her feet, are expected to be released from the hospital this week. The two surviving children were treated for smoke inhalation and are expected to make a full recovery.

The fire also destroyed the family’s truck and left the Carmonas with little more than the clothes on their backs, Valdez said.

Alejandra Carmona was the type of child every parent wishes for, Valdez said. “She was a sweetheart. She was kind and would always laugh and smile with everyone.”

“I couldn’t believe it when I heard,” said Herlinda Sanjuan, a friend of the family. “Losing a home is bad enough, but to lose a child at the same time is too horrible to imagine.”

Valdez is trying to set up a bank account in Alejandra’s name for donations and at least help her son-in-law clothe and feed his family once they are released.

“He has no clothes and no car now, so we are at least trying to help him get a cheap little car for $300 or $400 so he can get to work,” Valdez said.

Valdez, talking at a car wash in the parking lot of a Rent King store at US 41 and College Avenue to kick off the fund-raising drive Feb. 16, is grateful for the support the family has already received.

“I love how this community has really gotten behind the family,” she said. “It’s been non-stop since we started the car wash, with just car after car. People have even stopped to just give money. They didn’t even want their car washed.”

Along with money to cover Alejandra’s funeral costs, the family also needs: baby clothing, diapers and formula; adult clothing for a man, Monico wears size 11 shoes, large-size shirts and 32-inch pants; and clothing for two-year-old Angel, who wears 3T size clothing.

To donate money or clothing to the Carmona family, call (813) 400-8441 or (813) 645-7014.

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