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March 16, 2004

Two children killed in fire to be buried in NJ this week

From: The News Journal, DE - Mar 16, 2004

Parents 'crushed' by loss; donations sought to aid family

Staff reporter

A 3-year-old and his toddler sister will be buried in small matching coffins Wednesday, a week after a fire at their home near Bear.

LaMonte Lavon Hendricks, known as "Honeybear," and his 18-month-old sister, Bailee Stevena Hendricks, nicknamed "Ba-Ba," will be buried side by side in Burlington, N.J., funeral director Elbert J. Flippen of Camden, N.J., said Monday.

LaMonte died in the fire of smoke inhalation and his sister died the next day at Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. An uncle caring for them at the time was injured.

The Rev. Fredrick C. Johnson of Christ Baptist Church said the children's parents, LerMande and Wubu Hendricks, are crushed. "The whole family is devastated," he said. "It's like, 'How could this happen?' "

Johnson said the inseparable siblings will be remembered as playful, happy children. Their parents wanted to bury them together, he said, but state law forbids double burial in one casket.

As the parents, who are deaf, finished funeral plans Monday, a state Fire Marshal's Office team continued to investigate the blaze in the 200 block of Arlene Court in Salem Woods.

Police and firefighters, meanwhile, worked to help the family. When New Castle County police Officer Romi Dunning helped after the fire, she said she couldn't help but think of her own daughters who are the same age as the children who died.

That link and the Hendrickses' loss of all their belongings prompted her to take an unusual step: She sent an e-mail appeal for help to nearly 400 school employees she knows from working as a DARE officer in the Middletown-area Appoquinimink District.

"We had people start coming in with donations about 7 this morning," Officer First Class Jason Mollohan said Monday at county police headquarters in Middletown.

Christiana Fire Company members, who fought the fire with volunteers from Aetna Hose, Hook & Ladder of Newark, Minquas of Newport and Wilmington Manor fire companies, plan to take up a collection at tonight's meeting, public information officer Tom D'Alessandro said.

Public donations may be made to the Hendricks Family Fund at 1148 Pulaski Highway, Suite 236, Bear, DE 19701-1306.

The children's funeral will be at 11 a.m. at Christ Baptist Church, 950 Jacksonville Road, Burlington, where the family will receive condolences starting at 10 a.m., Flippen said.

In addition to their parents, the children are survived by grandparents in Michigan, Indiana and New Jersey; and a great-grandmother in Indiana, Flippen said.

Copyright ©2004, The News Journal.