- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 11, 2007

From combined dispatches

PHILADELPHIA — A fire engulfed a dilapidated house early yesterday, killing a mother and her four children, who were staying in the home despite relatives’ warnings that it was unsafe, officials said.

Firefighters found the victims unresponsive on a bed inside the West Philadelphia house’s boarded-up second floor, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said. Rescuers rushed to pass the victims out of windows, and paramedics tried to revive them, he said. Firefighters found the bodies while breaking through a second-floor rear window to gain access to what they thought was an unoccupied building.

“They had to break through the plywood. As they break through the plywood and get the window open, they discovered they had people in the back,” said Commissioner Ayers. “They started to pull out small victims, small children, and they discovered that they had five victims inside this home.”

He did not name the victims: a 25-year-old woman and her children, a girl and three boys ages 2, 3, 4 and 6.

“It’s just a catastrophic thing,” the fire chief said. The cause of the fire was not known yesterday.

According to WCAU-TV, Philadelphia’s NBC affiliate, devastated relatives identified the dead mother as Coronellery Robinson.

The home had been abandoned after the death of the woman’s mother. The young mother was living there despite safety warnings from family members, Commissioner Ayers said.

“She was told not to go back there, but she didn’t listen,” Commissioner Ayers said.

Laura Robinson, Miss Robinson’s grandmother, said she had tried to reach out to her granddaughter, who worked as a hairdresser.

“The only person that she listened to was the boyfriend,” the elder Miss Robinson said.

Family told WCAU that Miss Robinson’s boyfriend helped her move into the home. He talked with police but not reporters yesterday.

Neighbor Maurice Massenburg said, “We did see adults going back and forth, but we weren’t aware there were any children in the facility at all.”

Commissioner Ayers said the house was choked with debris, had an illegal electrical hookup and a hodgepodge of electric and kerosene heaters.

“It was just in a shambles — no place where human beings should be trying to live,” he said, adding that the fire started at about 3:20 a.m.

As firefighters continued to douse hot spots yesterday morning, a woman stopped and left two teddy bears adorned with Valentine hearts outside the charred house.

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