Heartbreak as sisters who perished in fire laid to rest
Grief and cries of agony filled the air yesterday as the small, square casket bearing the charred remains of sisters Kayla and Abigail Tomlinson arrived at the Race Course Seventh-day Adventist Church in Vere, Clarendon.
The girls, ages four and three, respectively, perished in a fire that gutted their home in Haylesfield, Race Course, Clarendon, on March 24.
Their mother, Micey Walters, was a picture of despair as she wept uncontrollably. Walters, who fainted at the graveside, is currently before the court answering to charges of negligence in relation to the death of two of her children. The girls' maternal grandmother also fainted and had to be rushed to hospital. The children's father, Owen Tomlinson, also wept bitterly, gripping the tiny casket tightly while he begged to hold his children.
Sonia Rhoden, cousin of the deceased, read in the eulogy that little Kayla was given the moniker 'Luck Luck' having battled critical health issues and underwent surgery at birth.
Kayla's triumph over those adversities, Rhoden said, caused the family to label her as a lucky girl. "Though they were with us for a short time, their memories live on forever," said Rhoden. Both girls were students at the Race Course Primary and Infant School. The school's principal, Monica Smiley, told THE STAR that the school family is devastated. Smiley related that when news came that the Tomlinson sisters' home was on fire, she thought all three girls were at school. But she was flung into a tailspin shortly after upon realising that the two younger ones were absent. The family said the girls were at home recovering from illness.
After hearing that the young girls died in the blaze, Smiley said: "I was driving and I had to stop and call the education officer and said 'You need to send someone for me. I can't go any further.' It was so devastating...the pain...I just couldn't believe it."
"The school family has been under such a dark cloud. This tragedy hit us really hard. There was a pall over the school that day," related Smiley, adding that the school has been providing support to the family. Family friend Audrey Morris said the situation is especially heartbreaking as Walters and Tomlinson are "good parents" who were very protective of their daughters.
"When I got news of the tragedy it was very devastating because I know they are very caring parents. Anywhere you see the father you see the children. He always have one on his shoulder, one on his side and the biggest one walking," Morris told THE STAR. In a message sent by Fayval Williams, minister of education and youth, she asked parents to "Hold your children closer to you".
"I call on all parents, hold your children a little closer. Ensure they're always in the care of some adult. You never know what the tragedy will be. It's not about blame, it's about taking caution, and so we want to implore you to pray with your children. Pray in the morning, pray in the night, if it's the last thing you do," charged Williams.
Councillor for the Race Course Division, Pauline Reynolds, struggled to find words to describe the tragedy. She also used the opportunity to encourage parents to keep a closer watch on their children.