, news editor, Adventist Review
Members of a Seventh-day Adventist church in Massachusetts are mourning after four of their own died in a raging house fire.
The blaze erupted early Friday in a three-family home in Lynn, Massachusetts, trapping four members of an Adventist family, including a pregnant woman, on the second floor. Firefighters managed to rescue two other family members
“We are devastated. Everyone is crying,” Floridama Maldonado, a church member and family friend, said in an interview with Fox television.
The Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church, where the family worshiped in the nearby town of Malden, was packed for a vigil on Saturday evening, according to local news media, which have carried extensive reports about the tragedy.
Church members were joined by well-wishers from surrounding congregations to mourn Sonia Cruz, 36, who was pregnant; her sister Maritza, 39, a home caregiver; niece Yasmin, 19, a college student; and nephew Rodolfo Mercedes, 28.
Sonia Cruz was the first to notice the fire around 12:50 a.m. Friday and screamed loudly in an attempt to awaken the others, family friend Edwin Molina told New England Cable News television.
“I can’t explain how she wasn’t able to get out,” he said.
Rodolfo Mercedes fled the flames but then went back in to save his family, the report said. He never reemerged.
“We loved him dearly,” church member Sarita Ago said. “He was a great person, kind, compassionate. He was a great basketball player, very humble.”
The family had moved to the area from the Dominican Republic three years earlier.
About 20 people lived in the 2 ½-story house, which was utterly destroyed. A police officer noticed the flames as he drove past the building and alerted the fire department. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The two family members rescued by firefighters — an 18-year-old woman and a woman in her 60s — were hospitalized in stable condition.
Wilmer Perez, who escaped the inferno with his 7-year-old daughter and other relatives, said he had never seen anything like it before.
“I’m so sorry for the family,” he said, according to WCVB-ABC television.
The Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church is seeking to raise $22,000 to send the bodies of the four family members back to the Dominican Republic for burial. The church has collected about $6,500 so far. It also is setting up a GoFundMe page to assist surviving family members.
The church’s pastor, Eduardo Rodriguez, said the tragedy came a few weeks after the church buried another member, 18-year-old Josue D. Quispe-Almendro, whose body washed ashore on a local beach after he went missing in mid-October.
“In less than a month we have had two big tragedies,’’ Rodriguez told the Boston Globe newspaper. “It’s been hard for us here.”