Carolyn P Smith
Jan. 6—Washington Park Village Trustee Mary McKinneysaid she remains in disbelief as she grieves the loss of a nephew she regarded as another son.
David T. Washington, the 40-year-old man who died in an East St. Louis house fire early Saturday morning, was trapped inside the three-bedroom, ranch-style wood frame house before firefighters arrived.
Assistant Fire Chief George McClellansaid a call came to the fire department at 1:03 a.m.First responders arrived to heavy smoke and flames shooting through the roof above the kitchen in the rear of the house.
The heavy black smoke that had billowed throughout the home’s interior made it difficult to locate Washington, who was in the hallway near a bedroom.
Washington was pronounced dead at the scene at 2:15 a.m.., St. Clair County Coroner Calvin Dye Sr. said.
“It appears he died from smoke inhalation,” Dye said.
News of the fire reached McKinney at her home via her daughter, who runs a store at Kingshighway and Caseyville in Washington Park.
“Someone told her my house in East St. Louis was on fire,” McKinney said.
McKinney said she “lost all sense of reasoning” as she rushed from her Washington Parkresidence to the East in St .Louis property where her nephew died.
“When I pulled up to the driveway, I realized I didn’t have my eyeglasses.on,” she said through tears. “I saw ate blaze coming through the roof. I screamed ‘Dave! Dave.’
“I gave the keys to the house to the firemen and told them where his bedroom was. When they opened he door, the roof went into flames. All of the ceilings fell down. I asked them did they get him?”
McKinney said a sinking feeling inside prepared her for the worst, which was realized when she saw smoke coming off Washington’s shirt as firemen carried him from the burning structure.
The room where he normally slept was untouched by the flames, McKinney said.
“I don’t know what I am going to do. I lost my baby,” she said. “He was my right-hand man.”
McKinney said when she first sought elected office, her nephew was there to do anything she asked of him.
“He was a great cook, too,” McKinney said. “What am I going to do? I just don’t know.”
McKinney said she last saw Washington at a boarding house where she had stopped to deliver boxes of food for people there. Washington volunteered with a local food pantry, Feed My Peeps.
“I blew my horn and Dave came out to help me carry the food to the house. …” she said. “That’s the last time I talked to him.
“I wish God had let me know he had this in for him. I could have been better prepared.”
She said she and Washington have been working on the house on North 42nd Streetfor about for or five years.
“He didn’t have anywhere to go and he’s my kid. I let him come there while he was doing some drywall work and other things to fix the house up,” McKinney said.
Washington also assisted his aunt when she started a local food pantry and as a skilled laborer at her construction company. He also assisted McKinney during her time as director of East St. Louis Community Development.
“Everybody loved my son, from the Roosevelt’s and all over Washington Park. People knew he was a good person and would do anything he could to help somebody.”
McKinney said Washington forged a special bond with his cousin, who has Down’s Syndrome.
“I kept a gazebo in the back yard and some pretty flowers. He loved flowers. He would be out there playing his music and relaxing,” she said. “… My son loved Dave. The two of them were great for each other.
“My son always had so much fun being with him. We’re going to miss him.”
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