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Vigil honors boy who died in fire

By BY JENNIFER PREYSS - JLPREYSS@VICAD.COM
Feb. 24, 2013 at 11:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 24, 2013 at 8:25 p.m.

Shelli Navarro (left), 11, sister of Orlando Navarro, a 12-year-old boy who died in a house fire  Saturday, and Sadie Garcia (right), 10, cousin of Orlando, hug  Michaela Casarez (center), a family friend, during an evening vigil in honor of Orlando. The vigil was held in front of the home that caught fire.

TO HELP

The family needs clothing, furniture and money after the fire.

Call Tommi Turrubiartes at 361-894-6518, Virginia Cabral at 361-894-6518 or Michelle Rendon at 361-550-3719 to donate.

TO DONATE

To give to the American Red Cross Crossroads chapter, call 361-573-2671.

GRIEF COUNSELING

Grief counseling will be available for teachers and students from the district's crisis counseling team Monday at Patti Welder Magnet Middle School, said Diane Boyett, Victoria school district's director of communications.

A single, long-stem candle lit the path beneath Juan Navarro's feet as he walked through his family's charred living room.

His candle flickered in the darkened home as he carefully stepped through piles of burned shoes and broken drywall.

"This was his room," said Navarro, 23, pointing the light at the twin bed of his 12-year-old cousin, Orlando Salvador Navarro.

Tears appeared on Navarro's face as he stared at a scorched, broken mattress - a skeleton of exposed metal springs and blue fabric.

A chocolate chip cookie and lone playing card rested at one end of the mattress. The stench of smoke and ashes perfumed the home as if a full day hadn't passed since firefighters extinguished the flames.

"He liked cards," Navarro said, wiping his tear-filled eyes. "He was always doing tricks with them."

Outside the bedroom, neighbors and family members wailed and gasped for deep breaths. They, too, held candles offering sentiments of mourning. "R.I.P., Orlando," many of the candles read.

"Why my baby?" Orlando's mother, Tommi Turrubiartes, cried out among the crowd gathered around her home in the 1600 block of East Guadalupe Street. "I'm sorry, mijo, I wasn't here for you."

For about an hour Sunday night, friends and family gathered in remembrance in the front yard of the home, still roped off by yellow police tape.

The crowd encircled a melted Fisher-Price wagon with some of "Lando's" surviving possessions. There, they prayed, sang worship songs and offered thanks to God for the short years they were allowed with a loving and charismatic boy.

"Nothing could bring him down," Navarro said. "There's never going to be anyone like Lando, and there's no amount tears we can cry to bring him back."

A day earlier, Lando, as his family calls him, died in his bedroom when the home caught fire about 8:45 a.m.

His stepfather was unable to save him, and his mother and her daughters were out of the home and driving to Houston for the day to go shopping.

Lando died in his bedroom and was pronounced dead at 8:55 a.m. by Justice of the Peace Stuart Posey.

Navarro's cousins slowly gathered around him and shone their candles on the bed.

Weeping, Lando's cousin, Ernest Sanchez, 16, collapsed on Lando's mattress and buried his head in the remains.

"He was only 12," Ernest cried, laying his hands on the bed.

A few moments later, family members exited the charred bedroom and collected in the front yard.

Family members embraced and held their candles to the sky.

"Hold them up high so he can see," Navarro said, raising his candle high.

Sobbing eventually lessened, and the front yard became still and silent.

"When I was on the mattress, I was thinking that he died right here. My hands are covered in his ashes," Ernest said. "There are so many good memories here at this house: inside, outside, on the trampoline in the backyard. All I will think about is the good times."

Turrubiartes, unable to speak much through the candlelight vigil, said she felt as if the event allowed her some resolution.

"I lost everything. Everything I had, I lost," she said. "I'm so appreciative for everyone who came out here and for everyone who has helped us. I feel like I got some peace tonight."

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