OPOKU firstname.lastname@example.org_county.toronto.toronto_star 2006-12-17 published
'She had the heart of a hero'
Girl tried to save mom, family says
By Thulasi SRIKANTHAN, Staff Reporter
In the cold morning wind yesterday, the women wailed and wailed, their faces streaked with tears, hands raised to the sky.
Behind them, a makeshift memorial rested on the front lawn, a tribute to 15-year-old Priscilla ASANTEWAAH. Family members say she rushed into her burning home on Humber Blvd., near Black Creek Doctor and Weston Rd., last Sunday to save her mother, who she thought was trapped upstairs.
Priscilla perished inside, unaware her mother, Mavis SERWAAH, had already jumped from the third floor to safety outside.
But yesterday a little glimmer of hope appeared for the family, who lost their home and everything in it, when they received two $500 cheques from the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters' Association and the firefighters' Operation Christmas Tree. The family also received toys from the firefighters' toy drive.
"This is a tragic situation… sometimes we don't have answers," said King Kwaski OPOKU, a community leader who spoke for the family. "Support like this gives us encouragement."
At Saint Michael's Hospital, SERWAAH cried out and clung to her 11-year-old son's shirt as relatives and Friends appealed to the public to help the family this Christmas.
"She was such a wonderful girl, it just hits the whole community," said John FORSON, Priscilla's uncle. "A life is lost, her mother is critically ill, a young boy left alone and all property lost. It is a tragic moment for us, and we urge the community to show their support."
FORSON said his niece was devoted to taking care of her mother, who is battling arthritis and breathing problems.
And he painted a picture of a friendly, athletic high school student who dreamed of building a better life for herself, attending university and becoming a dentist and mother.
"Unfortunately, those dreams did not realize," FORSON said.
'She knew that she had left her mom, who was incapable of getting out of this fire.
"She had the heart of a hero, doing everything for the mom," he said. "She knew that she had left her mom, who was incapable of getting out of this fire. She came out and decided to go back to get her mom.
"For a moment," FORSON said, "you have to stay back and think about the heart of this girl."
After the fire, Toronto Fire Chief Bill Stewart stressed the need for fire sprinklers in newly constructed buildings, while acknowledging that retrofitting older buildings would be an expensive process.
"The only way we are going to effectively stop this fire death problem is to bring in sprinkler legislation," he said.
"Residential sprinklers are the answer; 88 per cent of our fire deaths happen in our homes.
"There are 220 jurisdictions in North America that have legislation in place now," said Stewart.
"The City of Vancouver has had this legislation in place since 1990, and not had one fire death, so this is not new."
Meanwhile, the firefighters are also appealing for the public's help in dealing with a severe shortage of toys for their toy drive.
"We are especially in urgent need of toys for both girls and boys above the age of 9 years," said Rick BERENZ, executive officer for the Toronto Fire Fighters' Association.
A viewing for Priscilla will be held at 10 a.m. December 30 at All Nations Full Gospel Church, 4401 Steeles Ave. W., followed by a funeral service at 8 p.m. in the Church of Pentecost banquet hall, 2256 Sheppard Ave. W.
A trust fund has been set up to aid the family. Donations can be made at any Royal Bank branch.
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