A couple residing in Bayelsa State, have been numb, shocked and inconsolable since the day their three young sons perished in a mystery fire that razed their home.
Sunday Sun learnt from mr. Udoh and his wife, Favour, that the incident happened on the night of Thursday, January 14, 2016. As he recounted, Udoh, who is a commercial motorcyclist sent out his daughter to buy some drugs for him after he returned from work while he stayed at home to look after the three young sons that were asleep.
That night his wife who went to the market to buy materials she needed to make Suallu bean cake and pap, which she sells to residents in the neighbourhood and also collect her phone, where it was being charged had not yet returned.
When Udoh had waited for a while and the daughter had not yet come back from the errand, he got worried and decided to go out to look for her. Given that children were sleeping in the house, he locked the entrance door from outside before stepping out to search for the daughter.
The decision to lock the door, apparently for the security of the children proved a fatal one. He was still on his way back to the house when shouts of ‘fire, fire’ rent the air and people began running towards the direction of their house.
By the time they reached the house, there was little they could do. The three children had been burnt.
The police in their preliminary investigation concluded that the fire incident was caused by a lit candle, but residents of the area held the contrary view that the fire was a mystery.A neighbour of the family, who gave her name simply as Josephine, said nobody could explain how the fire started because it burnt the two rooms of the landlord before consuming the house of the Udohs.
According to her, the fire was so intense that before people could get rescue the children, they had been burnt to death. However, she noted that the children might have been able to escape if the door was not locked from outside.
At the new location where the Udohs had moved to, heartbroken Mrs Udoh broke down in tears when asked to talk about the dead children. Overwhelmed by grief and the pain of losing her three sons in one night, it was her relative, Mrs. Victoria Dominic who came to her aid and explained that the Udohs had been emotionally crushed since the death of their sons.
She also confirmed the general belief that there was a mystery behind the fire incident, stressing that the Mrs Udoh had always been careful not to use candle or lantern in the house because of kerosene.
“On Thursday around 8 pm, her husband was in the house, she sells bean cake and akamu. She went out to buy some ingredients and collect her phone from where she used to charge it because she does not want to use lantern or candle because of the kerosene in the house. From there the husband went to check their first daughter who was sent to buy drugs. It was from there they heard shouts of fire and when they got to the house and open the door, the three boys inside had been roasted to death. There was no way to rescue them.
“They are in a terrible state and they are in need of help. They have nothing left. The husband’s motorcycle is gone, and all their life savings are gone too. The Apostolic church where we are worshipping has been helping but people need to come to their assistance and provide the capital they need to start their business again. People are donating clothes to them. We appeal to the state government and well meaning Bayelsans to come to their aid,” she said.
The corpses of the dead sons were initially deposited at the mortuary of the Federal Medical Centre for autopsy and further investigations but the bodies were later released to the family for burial.