CUMBERLAND COUNTY — Fire investigators have been sifting through debris, trying to determine what caused an early morning fire that claimed the life of a 7-year-old Cumberland County boy.
Demetrius Jordan's mother arrived home to find her worst fears confirmed; despite efforts by neighbors to rescue him, her son did not make it out of the burning mobile home alive.
Authorities believe the blaze started just before 2 a.m. in the room where the boy was found.
Landlord Jeff Douglass says there were two smoke detectors in the home; investigators confirm there was one detector in the living room and one in a bedroom. The detectors may have to be sent off to a lab to determine whether they were working at the time of the fire.
Douglass hopes the detectors helped the two other children, and an adult sleeping in the front of the home, to escape.
"My sister started coughing real hard and then I woke up," explains an 11-year-old neighbor who was inside the burning mobile home. She says her little sister was beside her, struggling for a breath.
The 11-year-old says she knew they had to get out of the house and fast.
"I picked her up because she was sleeping and coughing. I pushed her up, patted her back and put her outside," she said.
She then went back inside for her friend Demetrius, but was unable to find him. "I tried to get him out. I was calling his name, hitting on the wall, and I couldn't stand the smoke so I had to leave."
Some neighbors who live in an adjacent mobile home saw the flames and heard the cries for help, but were overcome by the power of the fire.
"I heard people saying 'Save that baby, save that baby,'" says witness Edmund Nathaniel. "'Where's that baby? Save that baby,' and by the time we tried to get in, we couldn't."
Friends and family are beginning to feel the loss of the first grader known as "Demo."
"Everybody's taking it bad because it's such a shock," says Charles Page, the boy's uncle. "He's going to be missed a lot. He was so much of a smart child. He was really advanced. It's like he was 7 years old with the mind of a 12-year-old or a 13-year old."
At the bus stop this morning, the boy was missed, and not just by the children.
Guidance counselors and school psychologists spent Thursday morning working with children at Westarea Elementary School, where Demetrius Jordan was a student.
An autopsy is scheduled to determine exactly how Demetrius Jordan died. A memorial in his honor is also being planned.