POMONA PARK, Fla. – State investigators confirmed that four children made it out of a burning mobile home in which two young children died early Sunday morning. The state fire marshal, working with the Putnam County Sheriff's Office, also determined no adult was in the home when the fire started.
Firefighters dispatched to New York Lane in Pomona Park about 12:45 a.m. found the mobile home engulfed in flames with two children believed to still be inside. After knocking down the fire, they found the bodies of two children, identified by family members as Zaden Sharper, 4, and Na'ziyah Sharper, 5.
State investigators said the two were sleeping over at a relative's home when an electrical issue sparked the fire. The children who escaped were between the ages of 5 and 10.
According to the incident report, the homeowner, who is the mother of some of the children and an aunt of the others, showed up at the scene and began yelling, "My babies are inside." Detectives said they had to physically restrain her from going inside the home.
The state fire marshal's office said it is still investigating why an adult was not home at the time of the fire.
The Florida Department of Children and Families has launched its own investigation into the children's deaths.
Leighton Tomkins III, the spokesman for the Florida Division of Investigative and Forensic Services, said there was no indication of any suspicious activity.
On Tuesday, balloons could be seen tied to what was left of the Pomona Park home. Residents said the children's deaths have shaken the entire community.
"It's a real tragedy. My heart goes out to the mom and the family," said resident Princenijia Williams. "It breaks everybody's heart ... Nothing like this really happens in Putnam County like that. When it does, everybody tries to support everybody’s family.”
Na'ziyah's former teacher, Alisha Gill, told News4Jax by phone that she broke down when she heard the brother and sister had died.
"When you teach someone and you have them in your class, you get attached to those kids," she said. "I'm very heartbroken because they were such a loving family.
Gill remembered Zaden and Na'ziyah as being full of life. She said she will never forget their smiles.
"They were happy all the time, always smiling. Other kids loved being with them. (They were) always in school," she said. "Just wonderful kids."
A candlelight vigil and fundraiser for the two children killed will be held from 4-8 p.m. Thursday at Harry Banks Park in Crescent City.