We talk to the mother of the 11-month-old girl who died in a Peoria house fire on Wednesday. The little girl, Anariah West, suffered severe burns to her head, face, legs and backside.
Tanesha West was holding her 11-month-old daughter’s hand on Wednesday at a Chicago hospital when the baby’s heart stopped beating.
"I was there when the (heart and pulse monitor) machines went down," West, 23, of Peoria said Thursday. "I took the patch over her heart off and put my hand on her chest.
"I could still feel her heart beating, but when I looked at the machines it still said zero. Then her heart just stopped."
Anariah West was pronounced dead about 5:35 p.m. Wednesday at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood.
She was flown there after she was rescued from her crib after a fire ripped through her 821 W. Spring Hollow Lane home about 1 a.m. Wednesday. Her head, face, legs and backside were severely burned.
The infant’s caregiver, Valerie Edwards, 50, and cousin, Jayla Clark, 9, also were injured in the blaze, which took more than 30 firefighters to extinguish.
Three other family members escaped unharmed through a basement window. The fire’s cause is under investigation.
Edwards remained in serious condition on Thursday at Memorial Medical Center’s burn unit in Springfield. She suffered second- and third-degree burns to her arms, face and chest when she repeatedly tried to go back into the burning house for Anariah.
Clark, who had been sleeping on a couch on the first floor and was pulled out of the house by Edwards, suffered from smoke inhalation. She was listed in fair condition on Thursday evening at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.
At a Thursday evening vigil, family, friends and neighbors convened outside of the blackened and boarded-up home to pay their respects and remember "Ana."
"This is a sad moment, a tragic moment but one we can learn from," the Rev. Sam Russell of New Testament Fellowship Community Church told the group. "Your baby is asleep and she is resting in the arms of the Lord."
Tanesha West lauded the Peoria Fire Department for rescuing her baby, and said she doesn’t blame anyone, especially Edwards, for Anariah’s death. "If it weren’t for Val, I don’t know where I would be today," she said at the vigil.
Edwards had been caring for the baby girl while Tanesha West waited for a court hearing, hoping to regain custody. She adopted West’s three other children — Shawn, 7, Lakendra, 6, and Tykeisha, 5, when West was 18.
The three older children also lived at Edwards’ home, but were staying with another relative when the fire broke out, Tanesha West said.
"They’re taking it real hard," she said of the baby’s siblings. "They wanted to go with me to the hospital, but I told them they couldn’t."
When she returned late Wednesday night she dreaded telling her surviving children the sad news.
"I told them (their sister) was gone," Tanesha West, choked up, recalled Thursday. "That she had gone to heaven. That she wasn’t coming back, but that she was watching over them and loved them."
Anariah West’s beauty, contagious laugh, love of animals and the joy she brought to everyone around her is what her mother will miss most.
"She was always happy, always smiling," Tanesha West said. "She loved to be around family members. Her brothers and sisters loved to play with her."
She said she’ll cherish those last few hours she spent with her baby.
"Me and my sister stood by her bedside, held her hand and felt her hair," she said. "I told her everything was going to be all right, that her sisters and brother loved her."
Leslie Fark can be reached at (309) 686-3188 or email@example.com. Frank Radosevich II contributed to this story.