Community supporting family of children killed in Long Neck fire
As the investigation continues to determine the cause of the house fire that killed three children — 4-year-old twins and their 18-month-old cousin — money continues to be donated to help their two young mothers, sisters who lived together in Pot-Nets, a mobile home community in Long Neck.
Soon after the fire, family friend Albert Apicella set up a GoFundMe account, with a goal of raising $10,000. The amount was surpassed in 20 hours and had grown to $18,548 by mid-week.
Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael Chionchio this week said officials continue scrutinizing the Scarp Street blaze that began around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 7, causing $50,000 damage to the home and claiming the lives of twins Skyler and Veronica Marchuck, 4, and their cousin Amaya Gentner, 18 months.
Caila Gentner, 23, is the mother of the twins, and of their sister, 2-year-old Kora Hitchens, who was rescued from the fire. Kora was rushed to the hospital, treated and released.
Casondra Gentner, 20, is the mother of Amaya.
“The sky looks different when you got someone you love up there,” another sister, Jozelynn Gentner, posted on Facebook. “We would like to thank everyone for their support for our family. The outpouring of generosity from our friends, family, community, charities and first-responders is unimaginable. Please continue to pray for our family while we mourn the loss of three beautiful children. Skylar, Veronica and Amaya, you are loved very much,” she wrote.
“As a friend of the family, I cannot thank every single one of you enough for the donations and love you have sent their way,” Apicella posted. “As a first-responder myself, it is amazing to see a community rise to the occasion for a family in need after an unimaginable disaster. Please continue to share and give what you can, as they will continue to recover for many months to come.”
“I organized the fundraiser because they would do the same for me,” Apicella told the Coastal Point.
“I was listening when the fire [call] came through, to find out it was my friend. I couldn’t just sit on my hands, so I figured I had to do something. I could set up a GoFundMe page,” he said.
The money will be used for the family’s personal needs. Another $15,000 was pledged by the Delaware-based Good Ole Boy Foundation, to help pay for the children’s funerals.
A letter posted on the Pot-Nets Facebook page states the community has been “overwhelmed by grief and the outpouring of support for the family and victims of [last Wednesday’s] tragic house fire.”
“We are currently working with Delaware State Police Victim Services Unit to collect a list of items needed by the family,” it states, specifying clothing in size 12-18 months, size 5 shoes, size 5 diapers and 2T Pull Ups training pants, for the surviving child; shirts in size extra-large, pants in size 17 and shoes in size 7 or 8 for Caila Gentner; and shirts in size medium, pants in size 17 and shoes in size 6 for Casondra Gentner. Items can be taken to the Pot-Nets office, at 34026 Annas Way in Long Neck.
As the community grieves with the family, stuffed animals have been left at the site of the charred house, with a row that includes a pink elephant, bears and dogs, as well as crosses, candles and flowers.
Soon after the fire, Casondra Gentner posted a photograph of her nieces, twin blonds — one facing the camera, the other looking tenderly at baby Amaya, whose smile revealed buds of new teeth.
At an evening community vigil last Thursday, Aug. 8, Caila Gentner lifted her hands to her face. On her Facebook profile she wrote, “I got three beautiful girls and they are my world.”
The gathering drew about 100 people, surprising Christine Clark, who had quickly organized it.
“I run the Longneck Snowball Stand on Long Neck Road. I was at the stand, watching all of the firemen and emergency responders drive by the day of the fire. I was sitting there when the forensic car drove past, and it broke my heart. It’s something that leaves you with a feeling of being so helpless. I needed to feel like I could do something, and I had no idea what to do.
“That morning, Pastor Lee Campen-Parks from the local church contacted me and asked me if we could hold a vigil at the stand. I said yes, of course. I contacted local businesses and asked them if we could use their parking lots, and everyone agreed,” Clark said.
Campen-Parks, she said, “spoke words of comfort and about how much our community cares about each other.”
Several fire companies responded, including those from Millsboro, Indian River and Lewes.
The Delaware State Police, in a news release, confirmed that the three children were found dead in the back of the mobile home. When first-responders arrived, the rear part of the house was engulfed in flames that were quickly extinguished. Responders discovered the children when they went inside. Their bodies were transported to the Delaware Division of Forensic Science, where autopsies are being performed.
By Susan Canfora