Investigators looking into whether space heaters caused blaze that killed 2 kids -
Published Friday, December 20, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 3:34 am
Investigators looking into whether space heaters caused blaze that killed 2 kids

Investigators are looking into whether space heaters caused the fire that killed two young children inside a northwest Omaha mobile home, said a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Interim Fire Chief Bernie Kanger declined to comment on the fire cause, saying it remained under investigation.

Kanger said the mobile home had a nonworking smoke detector — it was missing a battery.

Authorities also are awaiting autopsy results to determine how brothers Gabriel and Brandon Rodriguez, ages 3 and 3 months, respectively, died in the fire Wednesday near 129th Street and West Maple Road.

Their sister, 13-month-old Adrianna Rodriguez and mother, Champaine C. Harn, 18, escaped from the burning home.

Adrianna was discharged Thursday from Creighton University Medical Center. Harn remained in critical condition at that hospital, though she is expected to survive.

Tammy Salas, the children's grandmother, said staff members at Creighton contributed an outfit for Adrianna. Friends of the fire victims have since donated two outfits and a winter coat.

“Adrianna needs everything right now,” Salas said.

The girl is now under the care of family members.

Salas said her daughter and the children's father, Victor Rodriguez, are “still in shock” over the loss of their sons. Rodriguez, she said, is grateful for help the family has received from his workplace, Affordable Exteriors.

The parents “are not handling this very well at all right now,” Salas said. “They are devastated and so is everyone else.”

The Omaha Professional Fire Fighters Association has established a fund to help the family and contributed the first $1,000.

The public can make donations to the “Fire Fatality Benefit Fund” at the Omaha Fire Fighters Credit Union, in person or by mailing contributions to 4630 S. 143rd St., Omaha, NE 68137.

Donations also can be dropped off at the union hall at 60th and Grover Streets, or at any fire station.

A separate fund has been established at Creighton Federal Credit Union. Donations can be dropped off at any branch.

Clothing and other items, as well as cash donations, will be accepted at the Maplewood Estates manager's office, 12801 Spaulding Plaza.

The office is at the north end of the mobile home park where the fire occurred. The donations can be dropped off Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Kanger said the firefighters who attempted to rescue the children were trying to deal with what happened.

“They take this personally,” the chief said. “We leave the fire station with every intention to save everybody.”

Contact the writer: Maggie O'Brien

maggie.o'    |   402-444-3100    |  

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