By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Fatal fire ruled an accident
Smoke rolls off the remains of the Island Highway home Friday morning. - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon
According to a report from the Associated Press, Georgia fire commissioner spokesman Glenn Allen said a Midway house fire that killed 2-month-old Jayce Michael Riley and injured his father Christopher Riley on Friday morning has been ruled accidental. Allen said the blaze, which destroyed the wood-frame house, was caused by a wood-burning stove near the center of the home, which was more than 70 years old.
The news report said Christopher Riley is in critical condition at the Augusta Burns Center with severe burns to his face, back, legs and arms.
The Island Highway home was destroyed despite attempts by the Eastern District, Riceboro and Midway volunteer fire departments, who were on scene within minutes of the 911 call, which came in just before 8:45 a.m.
“Our 911 center received a call in reference to a house fire here at 3464 Islands Highway and we received the call shortly afterward, about 8:45 a.m.,” Tracy Jennings a detective for the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office said shortly after the fire. “The first officer was on scene by 8:50 a.m. We came from the detective’s office a little while later and the house was fully engulfed in flames. There is one deceased and one injured. The injured party is a 38-year-old male and the deceased is a small child, approximately 2 months.”
The baby was later identified as Jayce Riley and the man was his father, Christopher. Lori Riley, the child’s mother, was at work in Savannah when the fire broke out, according to Jennings.
Chief Terrell Chipp of Midway Fire and Rescue said Christopher Riley was outside screaming that a baby was inside the home. Firefighters tried to enter the home, but Chipp said there were items in their way and the heat from the fire was intense. It took about 45 minutes to an hour for firefighters to gain entry, he said. It took about two hours to get the blaze under control.
Jennings said the father and infant were the only people in the house and credits next-door neighbor, Dwight Thompson, with rescuing Christopher Riley.
Allen said Riley climbed out one window of the home and then re-entered through another to try to save his son. Thompson heard Riley’s cries for help as Riley was about to lose consciousness. Thompson climbed through the window and pulled Riley out, even though the home was engulfed in flames.
In the process, Thompson slightly injured his back and one arm, but said helping was instinctive.
“This is a close-knit community and we help our neighbors,” he said. “I didn’t think twice about putting myself in danger to help him. I just did it without thinking.”
Deputy Coroner Thomas L. Carter arrived on scene where officials placed the infant’s body in a small basket, covered it with a blanket and brought it over to the coroner’s van. An unidentified man spoke with detectives and periodically wept while peeking into the back of the van.
The fire closed traffic in both directions on Island Highway for two hours.
Traffic opened in one direction around 11 a.m. Within one minute, Red Cross disaster relief workers arrived to assist the family.
Jennings said the case touched her.
“It’s very hard. I have children of mine own so it’s very difficult,” she said. “We have a job and we try to do it as best we can. Our main thing is dealing with the public and console them and be considerate of their feelings.”
A fund to benefit the Riley family has been established at The Heritage Bank and donations may be made at any of its branches.

Lewis Levine contributed to this story.
Sign up for our e-newsletters