One Texas mother recalled “yelling” the names of her tragic children when they were burned to death in a house fire last week amid widespread power outages.
Jackie Nguyen’s children, Olivia, 11, Edison, 8, and Colette, 5, and their own mother, Loan Le, died early Tuesday morning in the flame in Nguyen’s Sugar Land.
“I just stood there and screamed and screamed and screamed their names in hopes that they would come out of their rooms and basically jump over so we could get out,” Nguyen told CNN. “I just remember feeling like it was so dark and I can still hear everything crackling around me.”
Le retired to Nguyen’s house, about five miles away, to crouch when the power went out in her own house. Last week, Texas experienced power outages following the historic winter storm that saw temperatures hit single digits.
“We thought we were really lucky because we had electricity until the early evening,” said Nguyen.
The close relatives gathered around the fireplace and played card games before going to bed at around 9:30 pm.
“I put my kids to bed and the next thing I know I’ll be in the hospital,” Nguyen recalled. “A couple of hours later the fireman and the policeman came and said no one else made it.”
Nguyen’s memory of that fateful night is spotty, but she remembers not being able to get into her children’s rooms on the second floor and scream at them as the fire raged through her house.
The fire department arrived around 2 a.m. – and the mother of three had to be “physically prevented from walking back into the house,” said Doug Adolph, a spokesman for Sugar Land.
It took more than an hour to get the fire under control.
“My heart is broken,” said Nguyen, who sustained burns on her hands. “I will never be the same.”
Authorities are now working to determine the cause of the deadly inferno – but Adolph said the family reported on social media about using the fireplace to keep things warm.
“We can’t say for sure that this was the cause of the fire. We just don’t know yet,” he added. “It is possible that the investigation will never identify an exact cause.”
Sugar Land has been without power for at least eight hours, he said.
Nguyen said she is now plowing through her grief over the “crisis tactics mode”.
“I’m just really focusing on all of these final arrangements because this is the last thing I’ll do for my children,” said the mother.
Remembering her children as “phenomenal, amazing, little bad people,” she noted that Olivia and Colette – who were known by the nickname Coco – had consecutive birthdays on March 27th and 28th.
“Colette is just a little cracker and she has so much charisma,” said Nguyen. “Even as a 5-year-old she had this self-confidence. She was never afraid, did not apologize or let herself be intimidated. “
Her son Edison was a “cute boy” obsessed with modern art and architecture.
“He just had a very deep appreciation for any visual aesthetic,” said Nguyen. “So nice and so caring and so thoughtful. … You wouldn’t believe an 8 year old would have this depth. “
In the meantime, Le, a refugee from Vietnam, dedicated her life to her grandchildren.
“My parents did everything for their children, for example as immigrants, and when they came to this country and this love they gave me, it was ten times as much when it came to the grandchildren,” Nguyen recalled.
Nguyen said her mother never spent the night in her home – even during Hurricane Harvey – but “for some reason she decided to come that day.”
“I just feel like she was always dragging the kids around too,” she added, “so maybe this was her last thing, and you know,” overtaking “the kids to heaven.”
A GoFundMe page raised more than $ 315,000 on Monday morning.