NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Friends of a Newport News mother and her two young boys are trying to cope with the loss after the young family died following an apartment fire Thursday morning.
It was just before 5 a.m. when Newport News firefighters say they got the call from neighbors reporting smoke in the area. First responders rushed to Collinwood Place and found smoke coming from a second-story apartment.
Inside that apartment is where firefighters say three people were found and later died.
The Newport News Fire Department hasn’t released the victims’ identities, but friends of the victims say Alexis Newby and her two sons, 6-year-old Legend and 3-year-old Aymel, were those who died in the fire.
“I didn’t really believe it,” said T’Nai Jones about her childhood friend. “That’s like, something that you had to see to believe — when it comes to people that you were close with, or that you grew up with.”
Jones is one of dozens who took to social media remembering the young family.
Hearing that two of Newby’s four children were involved made it even harder for Jones to believe.
“When somebody is your friend, their kids become like your kids. So like, even if we don’t see him all the time and things like that, it’s still genuine love that you’re gonna have for people that you grew up with,” Jones said.
Less than 48 hours later, the apartment that caught fire looks like the other units. A few key items let passersby know that it’s not. An orange sign is posted to the door notifying others the unit is no longer safe. Below that, metallic balloons and a stuffed pink elephant gather at the foot of the apartment door.
An apartment where two young boys should be waiting with anticipation for the holidays. Jones doesn’t know what could’ve started the fire, but says there’s one thing she knows for sure.
“Alexis was a person that the whole city, they just loved,” Jones explained. “Then… her kids. Unfortunately, their family gotta go through this. It’s just a lot. This hit the city hard yet again and I just want everybody to keep their head up you know and just stay positive.”
At the bottom of the fire department’s release to community members, it reads:
“The Newport News Fire Department encourages all to have a working smoke detector in their homes – placed inside bedrooms, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home. Free smoke alarms are available to Newport News residents.”
To request a free smoke alarm, residents can call the Fire Marshal’s Smoke Alarm Hotline at 757-975-5454.
WAVY-TV learned there will be a fire safety walk in the neighborhood sometime next week. A city spokeswoman says they will release the details once they are set in stone.