People Who Tried To Save Fire Victims Struggle To Cope With Deaths

When George Sullivan saw flames pouring out of a Highway 49 house Tuesday night, he got out of his car "to help somebody if they needed help."

The former volunteer fireman heard somebody inside the burning building screaming for help. So he let his instincts take over. "I just acted on impulse," Sullivan said. He rushed to the front door, where flames were shooting through. "I climbed up the hand rails, got on top of the canopy, got on the ledge of bricks and tried to get through the window," he said. "Smoke was so think, it was choking me."

Sullivan and a handful of other people tried. But they couldn't get to the three trapped fire victims. "They said if I went in, I could have got killed myself," Sullivan said. "But I didn't think about that at the time."

On the day before Mrs. Jimmie Mabry's funeral, the 93 year old's family sifted through the remnants of her home. Her son-in-law Bob Jaeckel said, "Our son was looking through it, and just happened to pick this up. And the pictures are in great shape."

Mrs. Mabry's daughter said the bravery exhibited by Sullivan, neighbors and firefighters was something she'll never forget. "They're my heroes and they will be for the rest of my life," Nancy Mabry Jaeckel said. "They did the best they could and I can't tell them how grateful I am."

For the firefighters who battled the Tuesday night blaze, coming to grips with this tragedy hasn't been easy. That's why they all came to the Orange Grove Community Center. They met with crisis managers. And they talked about their frustrations.

Deputy fire chief Dean Morrow said, "All of us have families. And all of us can relate with the children that were there and were lost. And we all have our own way of dealing with things."

Before he left the fire scene, George Sullivan hugged Mrs. Jaeckel. He said, "It will take me a little while to get over this probably. There was nothing I could do."

The funerals for Darryl Cuevas and his 17 month old son Justin are Saturday in Gulfport. Mrs. Mabry's graveside service is in Wiggins.