Houston day care fire tragedy: investigators believe kids left alone

Local News Channel 2 is reporting that fire investigators suspect the 22-year old owner/operator of a West Houston day care left the kids along before a deadly fire broke out, ultimately killing 3 of the children and seriously injuring 4 other children. Jessica Tata, owner of Jackie’s Child Care, has not yet been charged with a crime, but police and fire investigators said a criminal case was building as evidence of what lead to the deadly fire is gathered.

Sources within Houston Fire Department told Local 2 Investigates that a neighbor states they saw Jessica Tata returning from a shopping trip to the grocery store, during which she left the kids alone at the home. That neighbor, Geoffrey Deshano, told Local 2 he saw Tata pulling up, frantically calling for help as she repeatedly stated she left the kids alone. Deshano told HFD investigators that he watched Tata fumble for keys, unable to get into the day care center. HFD spokeswoman Assistant Fire Chief Lisa Campbell said HFD is waiting to speak to Tata and they have not yet had an opportunity to do that.

Ron Tata, Jessica Tata’s brother, said the claim that Tata left the children alone is not accurate. The Houston Chronicle quoted him as saying that those claims were “crap” and he appeared to fault neighbors who, he said, stood by watching and doing nothing as Jessica Tata attempted to remove kids from the burning house. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, an investigator said that even the very cheapest of smoke detectors will sound an alarm before smoke is visible. In this fire smoke filled the entire home, so any adult would have had enough time to save all seven of the children had someone been in the house at the time of the fire.

Deshano said that once he and Tata were finally able to open the back door, smoke poured out and a crying and choking child emerged. He said they couldn’t reach the other children because the smoke was so thick and choking. The Houston Chronicle reported that as the tragic scene unfolded Jessica Tata, who had burns to her hands, turned to her mother and told her to call a lawyer, a Houston Chronicle photographer said.

If the Houston Fire Department investigation ultimately reveals that Jessica Tata did leave the seven children alone in the house before or at the time of the deadly fire, her doing so almost certainly goes beyond ordinary negligence and rises to the level of gross negligence. These vulnerable children, none of whom could probably even reach to open a door knob to escape the deadly smoke and fire, depended on the protection and good judgment of those charged with caring for them. If they were left alone in the house, even for a short amount of time, that is totally unacceptable and has resulted in a terrible, preventable tragedy.

The tragic scene at Jackie's Child Care in West Houston where 3 children died and 4 were seriously hurt

20-month old Kendyll Stradford who died in the fire at Jackie's Child Care in Houston

If you or a loved one have been injured in a house fire, call the experienced Houston personal injury attorneys at Smith & Hassler who have aggressively represented injured Texans for more than 20-years.