- Associated Press - Saturday, April 19, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) - He often drives by the remnants of the burned house on his commute to work at the Toyota plant in Columbus.

Sometimes Christopher Abbott can’t help stopping at the charred shell of his former home in Nineveh, where a fire killed his wife and two of his children. He stops his car in the middle of the Johnson County road for a few minutes, just to pause and remember.

“There’s not a day that I don’t think about it,” Abbott told The Republic (http://bit.ly/QniGch ).

Abbott came home after work Nov. 22 to find a nightmare. The duplex where his family of five had lived for nearly two years was engulfed in flames, and an ambulance had taken his wife, Sirena Slusher-Abbott, to a hospital to treat her for severe burns and smoke inhalation. She had tried repeatedly to get their 5-month-old son, John Ryan, and 22-month-old daughter, Hailey, out of the blaze. She wasn’t able to get to the children and later died from her injuries.

Police and state fire marshal investigators have told Abbott the fire was an accident, started by a candle burning near where Hailey was playing in the living room, which was also the baby’s bedroom.

“I still feel like I failed them as a husband and a father because I didn’t save them,” he said.

Abbott, 32, had been working in a temporary position as a welder for Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing for three months at the time of the fire but couldn’t immediately continue his responsibilities.

He left work that late-November day to find his life changed, and he did not return to his job until January.

But what was waiting for him on his first day back shocked him: a full-time position and nearly $4,000.

His co-workers had watched the tragedy unfold in the media, and they pitched in to collect clothes and money.

“They’ve just been awesome to me,” he said.

Abbott said he plans to be at Toyota for a long time, and the support his co-workers have shown has connected him to his workplace.

While Nineveh is still home, Abbott said he has found comfort in Columbus.

He takes 6-year-old Aley, the fire’s only survivor, to The Commons so she can scale the Luckey Climber indoor playground. The laughing children help Aley take her mind off what happened, he said.

“The Columbus community is a great one to be in right now,” he said. “They’ve shown me a lot of love and support.”

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