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Girl, 8, aunt perish in fire

Saturday, August 12, 2017
Moruga family suspects arson as
Nekeisha Mitchell shows the burns her niece Alexi Butcher sustained in a fire which claimed the lives of her mother Nolene Gopaul and cousin Alliyah Primus at 5th Company Village, Moruga, yesterday. Photo by:Rishi Ragoonath

Trapped in a raging fire at their Moruga home in a suspected arson attack early yesterday morning, eight-year-old Alliyah Primus and her aunt Nolene Neisha Gopaul perished while another child was injured.

The charred bodies of Primus and Gopaul, 40, were found huddled near the kitchen door on the upper floor of their two-storey home at Fifth Company Village.

Fifteen family members, including six children ranging from three to 15 years, lived in the house located behind Gopaul’s parents’ home.

A police report stated that around 2 am, a neighbour reported that she heard a crackling sound and then saw the house on fire. With the front and back doors ablaze, family members were forced to jump through the windows to save their lives. Alliyah’s cousin Alexi Butcher, eight, received burns to her right arm in the process.

At the time of the fire, Gopaul’s three brothers, three sisters, her sister-in-law and her five young nieces were at home. Her 15-year-old daughter, however, was at her grandmother’s house while Alliyah’s mother, Nicole, was at her friend’s home in South Oropouche. The entire upper portion of the two-storey house was completely destroyed.

Alliyah’s mother was too distraught to speak to members of the media yesterday. She was inconsolable, screaming and crying, as she tried to come to terms with the death of her only child.

Recalling the traumatic ordeal, Gopaul’s brother Sheldon, 36, said the last thing she told him was that she was tired and was going to sleep. He said Alliyah and his sister would have been asleep on the same bed in the middle room when the fire started.

“We was asleep about 2 am when my brother wake me up. He say the house on fire. We jump through the back window, I did not see Alliyah or my sister. When we came to the front the whole house was on fire.”

Sheldon said when they realised Gopaul and Alliyah were not outside they tried to find a way back into the house but could not enter because of the raging flames.

“The whole house could have burn down, but I wish my niece and sister was here now. It real hard. We were calling and looking for a way to get in. We did not hear them at all,” he said between tears.

Describing Alliyah as a loving child, he said she called him and his brother daddy.

Gopual’s father Lincoln Elvin, 67, recounted that he was awakened by the sound of something falling.

“I realise that there was fire in the back. I run to get the key to open the front door, but the current gone.”

With the assistance of his children, Elvin said they used a sledgehammer to break open a window, through which he and his wife got outside.

“All the neighbours come out to help and we form a bucket brigade, but it was not doing anything. We try the hose too but the pressure was not high,” said the father of 11 and grandfather of 14.

The twin sister of Alliyah’s mother, Nikeisha Mitchell, 32, said only two weeks ago they held a thanksgiving for Alliyah, on her request.

“We were giving thanks for Alliyah because since she born she have problems. She was on life support because she had breathing problems. We stopped going to church and Alliyah kept asking why. She wanted to go back to church.”

She said Alliyah and her cousins were looking forward to going to Las Cuevas beach on Sunday. She said Alliyah, who would have been entering Standard 3 at the Fifth Company Government School when schools reopens next month, already had all her school supplies. She said Gopaul, a single parent, was employed with a construction firm and worked very hard to take care of her daughter.

Relatives suspected the fire was arson but did not want to say why they believed so. The portion of the house and valuables lost were valued at more than $300,000.

Firefighters of the Fire Prevention Unit of the Fire Service are still investigating the cause of the fire and whether it was deliberately set. Crime scene investigators and homicide officers were among a team of officers from the Princes Town and Moruga Police Stations, St Mary’s Police Post and Homicide Bureau South who visited the scene.


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