It was about 2:15 a.m. on Christmas Day when Chantel Guillote and her family heard a boom from the home next door at Whispering Oaks Trailer Park in Houma, La.
Then came the screaming, in Spanish, as the neighbors banged on Guillote’s windows.
When she opened the door, she saw the smoke, and a family on her doorstep crying for help.
Guillote, 35, her son and her boyfriend rushed to try to save her neighbors from the fire.
They grabbed as many of the children as they could and brought them to their trailer. But three remained trapped in the flames.
When an ambulance arrived, they translated for the family, from Spanish to English, and convinced them to go to the hospital. The father of the three children was severely burned but did not want to leave.
A 12-year-old girl and her brothers, ages 11 and 9, died, authorities said, and seven other people were injured.
The children’s ages were determined by the coroner’s office, Lance LaMarca, district chief of investigations at Louisiana Fire Marshal’s Office, told the Los Angeles Times. Twelve people were in the mobile home at the time of the fire, he said. Their names have not been released.
The dead children and their parents had come from Alabama to visit for the holidays, LaMarca said. Houma is about 45 miles southwest of New Orleans.
Maryann Rowland, marketing and public relations specialist for Baton Rouge General Medical Center, said in an email to the Times that one patient remained at the burn center and was in stable condition.
The other six were discharged earlier Thursday, she said.
The cause of the blaze was under investigation. Authorities determined that it originated in the living room, where the bodies were found, LaMarca said. Space heaters were in use, he said.
“Their house is totaled. They lost everything,” Guillote told the Times.
Guillote said she recalls the father of the dead children telling her: “I heard my baby scream, ‘Help me, Papi,’ and I tried to go back in and get him and I just couldn’t.”