• The blaze occurred at around 3 a.m. Friday at an apartment in East St. Louis
  • Four children were pronounced dead at the scene
  • One child succumbed to burn injuries at the hospital
  • The cause of the fire was not known

A fire broke out in a home in St. Louis on Friday morning, killing five young siblings, just months after another blaze destroyed their previous residence.

The blaze occurred at around 3 a.m. on Friday on the second floor of an apartment building in East St. Louis. When the mother of the children returned home after giving someone a ride, she found the home in flames. While four of the children were pronounced dead at the scene, one succumbed to burn injuries at the hospital, St Louis Post Dispatch reported.

St. Clair County Coroner Calvin Dye Sr. identified the victims as a 2-year-old Loy-el Dunigan, 4-year-old Jabari Johnson, 8-year-old girls Heaven and Neveah Dunigan and 9-year-old boy Deontae Davis. The bodies have been sent for autopsy, which is expected to be performed later this week.

Meanwhile, an investigation revealed that the children died on their mother’s birthday, just hours before a party and that their previous home was destroyed in a fire just a few months back. The cause of Friday’s fire is yet to be determined.

Following this, many people took to social media to slam the mother for leaving the kids alone at home. Now, several of the woman’s friends and family members have spoken out in her defense.

"She took care of her kids, she loved her kids, when she didn’t have anything and she was homeless, she took care of those kids," the children's aunt told KMOV 4.

Pastor Doug Hollis, a family friend, told the outlet, "Everybody has made this mistake once in their life. You know, everyone has left their kids at home. Nobody expected this to happen, she didn’t expect this to happen. It happened so we don’t want everybody on Facebook and get on social media and slander her name and try to throw her under the bus, this is an honest mistake. This is a tragedy. She wasn’t planning on coming back and seeing her house on fire."

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family raise money for the funeral expenses.

By late July 2021, the number of acres burned in California was up more than 250 percent from 2020 -- itself the worst year of wildfires in the state's modern history
Representational image. AFP / JOSH EDELSON