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Great-Grandmother Shares Her Story After 3-Year-Old Dies from House Fire

The grandmother who suffered burns in the fire that took the life of a 3-year-old is now back home after being treated in the burn unit at a hospital in Louisville. The great-grandmother today told 44News that her daughter did everything possible to save 3-year-old Zaiden McCalllister’s life.

Posted: Apr 19, 2021 8:31 PM
Updated: Apr 20, 2021 1:32 PM

"The house is on fire -- there is a baby in the bedroom. The woman's up on the roof-- she just got out of the window -- she barely got out there."

This harrowing 911-call -- describing the scene as 46-year-old Stephanie Nizlack was forced out of a second story window -- unable to reach him -- her grandson -- 3-year-old Zaiden McCallister was still trapped inside. This happened Friday, April 16th on Read Street in Evansville.

"Their rooms were across the hall from each-other,” said Zaiden’s great-grandmother, Sharon Dorsey. “Their doors were shut -- she could not get his door open -- it was too hot for her."

He was pulled from his room by firefighters -- but sadly did not survive the smoke inhalation.

The family left with just a few short years of memories. 

"He would always come in the kitchen and there's a little stool in there,” Dorsey said. “And he'd come in there -- especially if we were doing dishes -- he wanted to play in the water."

Dorsey was celebrating her birthday in Nashville when she got the call -- that her daughter was being flown to Louisville for burn treatment. 

She drove the four hours north -- to be by her side -- it was there Dorsey found out her great grand baby was gone. 

"He never woke up --we know that the smoke got him -- we know that he was never scared," she said. "He didn't get hurt -- didn't wonder where anyone was or why he was alone -- so that's a comfort to us."

Some initial reports of the fire described Nizlak as having crawled out onto the roof to save herself -- but Dorsey says that is far from the truth.  

"When they took her down off the roof-- she was still trying to get back in," she said. "They had to restrain her."

The grief of Zaiden’s death -- impacting not just the family -- but the fire-fighters who responded to the scene. 

"They're frustrated -- they want to be successful," said Evansville Fire Department division chief Mike Larson. "They want to win every fight -- and this one didn't turn out the way we wanted too."

The community has donated clothes and household items to the family, with a GOFUNDME raising over $7K. 

But even all of the love will not be able to replace Zaiden’s infectious smile.

"It's just kind of a bad movie," Dorsey said. "A bad nightmare that we know we're not going to wake up from."

 

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