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Baby dies in fire
East-end residents blocked from main access
Riceboro Fire Department Chief Dennis Fitzgerald directs some of the mop up. - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon

Fund set up

A fund to help support the family, call Riley Family Donations, has been set up and donations may be made at any branch of The Heritage Bank.

Tragedy struck a Liberty County family Friday morning when a fire consumed their home, killing a 2-month-old baby and seriously burning a man.

The wooden 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 Riley's father Christopher. Lori Riley, the child's mother, was at work at the time the fire broke out according to Jennings. The detective said the father and infant were the only two people in the house and credits next door neighbor, Dwight Thompson, in rescuing the father from the fire.

Jennings said the state fire marshal is currently investigating the cause of the blaze.

Glenn Allen, spokesman for Ins. Commissioner, John Oxendine said Riley re-entered the home in an attempt to save the infant, climbing through a window. 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.

Riley was airlifted by LifeStar to the burn center in Augusta. He was initially listed in serious condition but, according to Jennings, his condition was later classified as critical.

Deputy Coroner Thomas L. Carter arrived on scene where officials placed the infant's body in a small basket and covered it with a blanket and brought it over to the coroner's van. An unidentified man spoke with detectives an periodically wept while peeking into the back of the van.

The firefight closed traffic in both directions on Island Highway, severing the main artery between Sunbury, Yellow Bluff and Colonel's Island from the west end of the county for two hours.

Traffic opened in one direction around 11 a.m., within one minute the Disaster Relief truck with workers from the American Red Cross arrived to offer services and assistance to the family.

Thompson declined to speak with reporters, saying he gave his statement to the fire marshal.

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."

--Lewis Levine contributed to this story.

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