December 24, 2013

In fatal Pratt fire, father talks about losing his sons

When Ramon Ibarra returned from an errand Monday afternoon, he saw that his house was on fire and that his wife, Destry, was outside, her skin covered in soot.

When Ramon Ibarra returned from an errand Monday afternoon, he saw that his house was on fire and that his wife, Destry, was outside, her skin covered in soot.

But it gave him a momentary sense of relief because he thought it meant his nearly 2-year-old twin sons were outside as well.

Then he quickly realized his sons were still in the burning home, and firefighters couldn’t let him go in.

“But as a father, you want to go in there,” he said Tuesday.

As the firefighters tried to rescue his sons, Ibarra fell to his knees and cried.

With tears welling in his eyes Tuesday, the 34-year-old recalled the traumatic minutes when he lost his twins. He and neighbors saw firefighters bring the boys’ lifeless bodies outside through a second-story window. His wife suffered smoke inhalation trying to find the boys and has been released from a Wichita hospital, Ibarra said.

Ibarra said a state fire investigator told him Tuesday that the fire remains under investigation. Ibarra said he doesn’t know what caused it. Before he left to gas up a vehicle, he did his usual check to make sure no candles were burning, and everything seemed OK, he said.

He had played that day with his sons, Jayce and Jasper. The boys would have been 2 next month. Jasper, true to his ornery nature, had been throwing M&Ms.

Ibarra had just bought the boys a twin bed. They got to sleep in it one night.

Now, he said, “There’s nothing that will make this go away.”

If there is a comfort, he said, it is this: “I loved on ’em and kissed ’em all the time. … I give all my love. …

“These are God’s kids, and he took ’em home. I’m just thankful for the time he gave me with them.”

One of Ibarra’s neighbors recalled hearing a noise Monday afternoon. He’s not sure, but it could have been from glass breaking.

When he looked next door, he saw smoke – and something startling.

It was the mother of the young boys next door, on top of the porch roof sloping down from the second story. She was yelling.

“‘My kids! My kids!’”

Authorities were not releasing any additional information Tuesday about the fire. An employee at the Pratt Police Department, which is the agency in charge of information about the fire, said no new information would be released until Monday.

At the fire scene around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, an investigator walked a dog into and out of the gutted house. For a while, the street near the house, in the 600 block of South High Street, was blocked off. A fire truck was parked in the front yard, and firefighters gathered outside in the frigid cold and snow flurries.

By 1 p.m. the fire crew was gone, and the barricades had been removed, and cars began to drive slowly by the house. It is a roughly century-old, small, gray structure, now surrounded by yellow tape, its siding scarred by black charring.

In a statement Monday, police said: “Emergency crews worked diligently to rescue the children, who were pronounced dead at the scene. … The Pratt Police Department extends its condolences to the family who lost their children and continue to investigate the fire’s cause and origin with the assistance” of the Kansas Fire Marshal’s Office.

Contributing: Beccy Tanner of The Eagle

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