Woman dies after helping children escape burning apartment

Published: Oct. 7, 2010 at 11:00 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 14, 2010 at 4:01 AM EDT
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Posted by Mike Dever - email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A woman who helped rescue her children from their burning apartment has died. The fire broke out at the City View Apartments at 651 South 11th Street near Magazine sometime before 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

Louisville Fire & Rescue Chief Greg Frederick says the woman heard her smoke detector and immediately began trying to get her children out. With the first floor engulfed in flames, the only escape from the 2-story townhome was through the second floor window.

Frederick says the woman collapsed after trying to make sure all the children escaped from a second story window before firefighters pulled her out. She was taken to University Hospital where she was pronounced dead at 7:23 a.m.

Jim Wesley from the Coroner's Office has identified the woman as 31-year-old Tomarra Finley. We're told that she is the mother of three of the children. The other two children were staying with her.

Larry Evans, who delivers newspapers, says he saw the fire and heard the Finley calling for help so he stopped and helped coax the children to jump from the window into his arms. Four children made the jump safely, but the youngest was too afraid. Thinking quickly, Evans and others who had gathered found a chair to stand on to reach the frightened boy.

"He put his foot out the window but he wouldn't come down," Evans said. "And I couldn't reach him because I was just standing in a regular chair and another man, he lifted me up so I could reach his leg and when I reached his leg he fell out the window and his uncle caught him and got him on out."

The children, who are all under 10 years old, were taken to Kosair Children's Hospital where they were treated for minor to moderate smoke inhalation. All were released by Friday.

The Red Cross has been assisting the five families who have been evacuated from their homes.

"They're dealing with the double shock," said Jenny Pluta a volunteer with the Red Cross. "Not only of having lost everything they owned, but they've lost the dearest thing that one can lose and that is a member of their family."

Pluta said the family is still processing what happened and only slowly being able to look at the challenges ahead.

"This grandmother now is going to be involved with raising grandchildren, which is probably not something that's she capable of doing without assistance right away," said Pluta. "She's going to need a lot of help from the community."

Frederick says the smoke detectors were still sounding when firefighters made their way inside the apartment to rescue Finley about 6:45 a.m.

It took firefighters about 12 minutes to extinguish the blaze. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Finley's family tells WAVE 3 they are collection donations through the Stock Yards Bank and Trust.  The fund is called: Memorial Fund For Tomarra Finley.

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