A space heater sitting too close to flammable material started a house fire early Wednesday that killed a mother and her four children in northwest Oklahoma City, authorities said.
Jeanine Bonnet, 28, Natalie Leon, 8, Samantha Leon, 7, Matthew Zackary Leon, 5, and Kara Leon, 3, perished in the fire, which started about 6:30 a.m. at 2816 Dorchester Drive. Brian Poletto, 39, Bonnet's boyfriend, was severely burned in the fire and was in critical condition Wednesday at Integris Baptist Medical Center.
Bonnet was divorced from the children's father, Matthew Leon, of Blanchard, but they were friends and shared custody of the children, said Frankie Leon, the children's grandmother.
“Jeanine was a good mother,” Frankie Leon said. “She took care of her children.”
Toni Wyatt lives in the Dorchester Apartments, next door to the house that burned. She said she smelled smoke and heard three loud pops about 6:30 a.m. She went outside to a front window of the burning home.
“I heard a guy yelling, ‘Help! Help!' I went over to see what was going on and helped pull the guy out of the house,” Wyatt said.
She said she then ran from the house across the lawn to get blankets and call 911.
Fire Battalion Chief Randy Cornelius said crews battled intense flames as firefighters found the bodies. The bodies of three dogs also were found inside.
“This was an intense fire,” Cornelius said. “It was pretty dangerous.”
Fund for father
Frankie Leon said her son is devastated.
Friends have set up a fund in his name at Bank of Oklahoma to help with funeral expenses for the children.
Family members have found it hard to comprehend that the children are all gone, she said.
“Natalie was 8. She was the stubborn one,” Frankie Leon said. “Sammy was age 7. She was the coy sweetheart. Matty was age 5, and he was your average typical boy. Kara was age 3.
“They liked to ride the quads with their dad. They loved to get muddy. They liked to do crafts. They liked to do everything. They were active young children.”
There were no working smoke detectors in the home, fire officials said. A fire spokeswoman said the house had not had gas service for some time, and numerous space heaters were being used.
Frankie Leon said she and her son spent two nights at the house earlier this week with Jeanine Bonnet, Brian Poletto and the children. They used space heaters in the bedrooms to keep the chill off during the cold of the night, she said.
A family friend, who did not want to be named, was cleaning up at the house Wednesday afternoon and said the family had been living there only a few months. They took over the lease because they wanted a bigger house with more room for the children, he said.