‘Sweet little girl’: Neighbors shocked by death of 8-year-old in Akron house fire

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AKRON, Ohio (WJW)– An early-morning fire claimed the life of an 8-year-old girl and now investigators are trying to figure out how it started. Meanwhile, the girl’s family and neighbors are trying to deal with the loss of a vibrant life cut short.

Investigators with the Ohio Division of State Fire Marshal and the Akron Fire Department are looking into exactly what caused the deadly fire. Lt. Sierjie Lash told FOX 8 it appears the flames started in a downstairs area of the home.

The family’s home on 18th Street NW in Akron went up in flames around 4 a.m. Tuesday. 

“Hello, my house is on fire. My daughter’s upstairs,” the girl’s mother can be heard telling a dispatcher in the 911 call. During the call, you can hear a man frantically tell dispatchers he can’t get back up the steps.

Neighbors said about a half dozen adults were able to escape, but intense flames trapped 8-year-old Roniah Boswell Bartee inside.

“The whole family was running out of the front door in a panic,” said neighbor Jessica Morlan.

“They were shooting through the roof, out the window. They were hitting the power lines and the power lines were sparking,” said neighbor Derek Ilaria.

Some of the neighbors said they are haunted by hearing the parents yelling that their baby was inside.

Investigators said Roniah was taken to Akron Children’s Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

“She was just in our backyard last night with all her cousins and her brother, jumping on the trampoline having fun,” said neighbor Stacey Lake.

Lake said she was praying everyone got out and was devastated when she learned that Roniah did not.

“She’s the same age as my daughter and she’s three houses down. And everybody’s calling us to make sure we’re OK because they heard an 8-year-old died on our street. And I can’t even imagine what those poor parents are going through,” she said.

“She’s a really kind, sweet little girl. She’s out here all the time, playing with all the other little neighborhood kids,” Morlan said.

Ashley Miles, principal of Akron Preparatory School released a statement:

“She was a bright, beautiful young lady full of joy in life. She loved school. As a community, we will be mourning this loss along with the family. We are making arrangements for on-site grief counseling and other services to emotionally support students and staff at this time.”

“She was a good girl, she didn’t deserve to die. She didn’t deserve that.. That fate, nobody deserves,” Ilaria said.

An Akron firefighter was treated for injuries and soon released from the hospital.

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