POINT PLEASANT —A tragic house fire left a family homeless, injured and grieving one of their own over the weekend.
The home of Billy and LaTanya Smith on 13th St. began to go up in flames around 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 18. In addition to Billy and LaTanya, three of their children were in the home as it caught fire. Somehow all five made it out but three of the children were critically burned and transported to Cabell Huntington Hospital and then to hospitals in Columbus, Ohio and Cincinnati, Ohio. Unfortunately, the youngest child, Braxton, 11, later died as a result of his injuries, according to the family.
As of Monday afternoon, one child was being treated for burns at Cabell Huntington Hospital, another in a Cincinnati hospital, again according to the family. One child is an adult, the other a 14-year old male.
In addition to the horrendous loss of life, the Smith’s home was also completely destroyed. The cause of the fire remains undetermined and the office of West Virginia State Fire Marshal has been called to investigate.
The word about the fire and the family’s plight spread fast via traditional media outlets and social media this weekend. By Saturday night a special gathering was held at Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School to pray and raise money for the Smith family. In addition, Peoples Bank set up a special benefit fund to assist the Smiths with donations of cash and checks being accepted at any Peoples Bank location in the area. One hundred percent of the funds collected will go toward the family’s recovery. For information on donating to this fund, call 1-800-374-6123.
There have been so many other offers of help, from selling red ribbons at Four Seasons Florists and Fruth Pharmacy, to collecting clothing. Tom Tom’s is donating a portion of food sales on Wednesday and Thursday and there’s a benefit spaghetti dinner from noon to 3 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 26 at PPJ/SHS. These are just a few of the events the Point Pleasant Register has been made aware of though no doubt, more are in the works.
For this reason, Billy’s younger brother Chris, who does IT work for Novelis, a company in Atlanta, Ga., is currently setting up a personalized website for his family which will be the central location point for those wanting information on how to help and information on benefits, etc. As of Monday evening, Chris was still working on the site and when launched (soon) the address will be released to the media, including here at the Point Pleasant Register. Novelis is also taking up a collection for the Smith family.
By Sunday evening, it seemed everyone in Mason County and surrounding areas had changed their Facebook profile picture to a red ribbon to support and pray for the Smiths as a sign of solidarity and as a display of how a small community rallies when there are those in need.
On the scene of the fire Saturday were firefighters with Point Pleasant, Gallipolis, Ohio and emergency service personnel with Mason County EMS, the Mason County Sheriff’s Department and the Point Pleasant Police Department.