Vigil held for children killed in Long Neck fire

During a vigil in Long Neck on Thursday, Caila Gentner, center, grieves the loss of her twins who died in a house fire at Pot Nets on Wednesday . (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

LONG NECK — Dozens turned out Thursday evening to remember the three children under age 5 who were killed in a deadly house fire in Pot-Nets Bayside in Long Neck a day prior.

As fire and police continued their investigation, community members and area businesses responded with donations for the families impacted.

The Local Ladies of Long Neck organized the prayer vigil at the Shoppes of Long Neck shopping center.

The home in Pot-Nets where three children died from fire on Wednesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“We didn’t know what to do and felt helpless, but we want to offer our support,” said organizer Christine Clark. “The community response has been so surprising, everyone wants to come out and support the family.”

The Delaware State Police and state fire marshal’s office are still investigating the cause of the blaze, to which multiple local fire departments responded to Wednesday afternoon after it erupted in the rear of the home at Scarp Street.

Samantha Dawson, right, and Ala Crossan during a vigil in Long Neck on Thursday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

While the home was on fire, one child was safely removed from the residence by a parent, police said. That child, a 2-year-old, was transported to the Beebe Medical Center for a medical evaluation and was treated and released, said Assistant Fire Marshal Michael Chionchio.

Firefighters discovered the three children deceased in the rear of the house. Their bodies were turned over to the Delaware Division of Forensic Science to determine cause of death, police said.

Fire marshal staff and state police remained on the scene through Wednesday night and into Thursday. Mr. Chionchio estimated $50,000 worth of damage to the residence and said more details would be released at the conclusion of the investigation.

A GoFundMe page was launched on Thursday by Albert Apicella, who identified himself as a friend of the family.

“The Gentner family has suffered a horrible tragedy that no person, mother or family could ever imagine,” reads the GoFundMe posting. “This page is to help the family with all the arrangements, financial cost and anything else the family needs for all three lovely souls lost in a tragic house fire on Aug. 7th, 2019.”

Organizers identified the deceased children as 4-year-old twins Skylar and Veronica Marchuck and an infant, Amaya Gentner — the twins’ cousin. (As of late Thursday night, state police had not released the names of the three victims.)

The fundraising effort by Thursday evening had raised $7,996 of its $10,000 goal. People interested in donating can search “Support the family of Skylar, Veronica and Amaya” on gofundme.com. The direct link to that page is https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-the-family-of-skyler-veronica-and-amaya.

Community support

The tragic fire spurred an outpouring of support from the surrounding community.

State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, who represents the area and was on the scene Wednesday, said the Good Ole Boy Foundation — a group that assists families facing unforeseen difficulties — had pledged $15,000 to help cover funeral costs, and he expects members of the community will give generously and do what they can to help the families. He said the residence appeared to be a total loss.

“It is a tragedy, and in times of tragedy we are blessed to have a community that comes together and helps one another,” Sen. Pettyjohn said. “I think that is something that a lot of people don’t realize about the area that we live in, that we have such a strong sense of community here.

He said the state is providing victim services to the families, but “it’s really about the community coming out and helping that family with this incredible loss that they have suffered.”

He noted that first responders could be in need of support as well. “We need to make sure that we provide the support to our first responders, to the volunteers that were out there, the paid personnel that were out there, whether it’s fire marshal, state police, fire police, the firefighters, EMS, ambulance drivers and all of the support personnel that were out there,” Sen. Pettyjohn said. “Having to go to this scene, having to deal with what they had to deal with is very traumatic for them as well. We have a wonderful system in place right now to help with that management of stress. Just to reach out to them in the coming days and weeks and thank them for what they do — and encourage them if they have any issues to go and seek some professional help. Talk to people about it.”

Doug Hudson, 4th District Sussex County Councilman, also showed his support.

“Any time life is lost it’s bad — it’s a tragic situation,” he said. “But when it’s a child, it’s tenfold. I went down there as a representative of the county just to see if we could do anything as a council, for maybe food, clothing or whatever we could do. I just offered my assistance.”

The nearby Paradise Grill in Pot-Nets Bayside announced several fundraising efforts as well.

The business has pledged to hold auctions and raffles during its upcoming Flounder Pounder Open fishing tournament which starts next Wednesday and runs until Aug. 18. Described as its busiest weekend of the year, grill staff noted that up to 300 teams (averaging five members) are registered to participate in the event.

They’ll also be adding a donation collection button to their website said Sandy Samsel, a spokeswoman for the grill.

“We love this community, we’re located in this community and we just wanted to let the family know that they don’t have to go through this alone,” she said. “The Pot-Nets community is tight — we’ve had family here since the ’60s — so this really hits home for everyone here.”

Any funds gathered will be given to the Good Ole Boy Foundation in an effort to ease the suffering of those affected by the fire.

Tunnell Companies L.P. — the organization that operates Pot-Nets — also launched a fundraiser. The company posted on its website: “Pot-Nets has been overwhelmed by grief and the outpouring of support for the family and victims of yesterday’s tragic house fire. We pray for these children. We pray for this family. We pray for our community.”

The community released a list of the following donation items sought:

• 12-18 month clothes

• Size 5 diapers and 2T pull ups

• XL shirts

• Medium shirts

• Size 17 pants

• Shoes in sizes 5, 6, 7 and 8

The post said, “This list is simply suggestions provided by friends of the family. Additional items are welcome.” They also directed any cash or online donations to the Good Ole Boy Foundation website at goodoleboyfoundation.com/give.html.

Mail donations can be sent to: GOBF-LN Fire, 36111 Pear Tree Road, Millsboro DE 19966.

Long Neck Deli owner Randy Knight rallied to the cause and tried to serve as many of the emergency responders free sandwiches on Thursday while they worked on the scene. He said he hopes to offer his continued support.

“I personally live in Bayside and my parents live in Bayside — so we feel like it’s the least we can do to try to help out,” he said. “When something like this happens here, it really touches home for us and we know doing anything we can to help is the right thing.”

Staff writer Glenn Rolfe contributed to this story.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment