A mother suffered an unimaginable loss. Firefighters had to hold her back as she tried to rush into her burning home to save her two children and husband. All three were killed in the fire.
She is clinging to her memories of Donnica Runnels, 7, Brinton Greve, 2, and their father, 31-year-old Christopher Greve. Their home is near 108th Street and Bennington Avenue.
The distraught mother and wife came back to the house late Wednesday to search for anything in the rubble that she could find to hold on to the memories of her husband and two children.
"Everybody did their part as much as they absolutely could to try to get in there and wake Chris up or get the babies out or do whatever they had to do to help my family get out of there and it was just too late," Shyla Greve said through a tear-stained face.
She said her faith is helping her cope with her unimaginable grief after a real-life nightmare.
"Jesus is helping me through this because I don't think that there's anybody else that can help you through a time like this to lose two babies so young," Shyla Greve said.
She was at work overnight when she got a frantic call from a neighbor to race home because her house was on fire. Firefighters had to hold her back as she tried to run into the burning house for her family.
"That's all I wanted to do is get in there and save my babies. But there was just flames everywhere and I wanted everybody to be safe. But there was a part of me knew that they were gone," she said.
"This is a fireman's worst nightmare. It is especially when you have kids involved," Lew Hendricks, the Kansas City Fire Department spokesperson, said.
Flames were shooting out of the windows when firefighters arrived just before 1 a.m. Wednesday.
In one night, Shyla Greve lost her beautiful family. Donnica Runnels, Brinton Greve and her husband Christopher Greve did not survive the fire. Firefighters said they found Donnica in the hallway, her stepfather in the bathroom and his son in the back bedroom.
"The sad part is the conditions inside were so untenable for anyone. It was bad enough for firefighters, let alone civilians," Hendricks said.
A next-door neighbor, Ulises Vega, told KCTV5's Sandra Olivas in Spanish that his dog started barking and, when he finally looked out the window, he saw the flames. He used a chair and then a metal bar to try and smash out the windows.
"Yo quise salvar a la gente…el fiero aqui," he said. "I wanted to save the people, I tried to break the windows. I broke that first one there using a chair and then with a metal bar."
Neighbors said it's hard for everyone coping with this devastating loss.
"My heart just goes out to the families. I just think what I would do if it was mine. Just very saddened. It's a very sad moment right now. This is really close to home for all these little kids. Us adults can handle it better than the children," Mollie Burgess said.
Kansas City Police Department's Bomb and Arson unit believe the fire was accidental and it appears an electrical problem could be to blame. The family did not have any insurance and their pastor said Shyla Greve needs a lot of support emotionally and financially.
"There was no insurance so you can imagine, I mean you have nothing, so we are going to try and help her rebuild her life," Pastor Chris Pinion of LifeQuest Church said.
For now, Shyla Greve is just grateful she was able to find some special items in the charred debris that will help her hold on to the memory of her beloved family.
"My husband's wedding ring was there and it was out of that house that there's nothing left in, there was his wedding ring and all of our scrapbook memories were actually not damaged. That was it. Out of the whole house. Everything else, there's no crib, no sofa, there's no nothing there. It's gone as well as my family," Shyla Greve said.
Hickman Mills School District officials said Donnica was a first grader at Burke Elementary School in the Ruskin School District. Counseling and teaching staff struggled to help her classmates. Grief counselors were brought in and the students took part in art therapy, making cards and posters and sharing memories Donnica. Two of her best friends placed cards and teddy bears outside of the damaged house later in the day.
"Because she's my best friend and we were putting cards and bears there for her," Nataya Bell said. "She was very nice, and she was 7 years old."
Grief counselors will remain at the school for the rest of the week.
Since the mother and wife lost everything, her church LifeQuest is working to set up a trust fund. They are also working with her to plan the funerals which will likely take place this weekend.
Investigators said, while the cause remains undetermined, they have determined the fire started in the front living room area. It caused a total of $45,000 in damage.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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