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Mother loses her five children after their home catches fire

The sudden fire claimed the lives of all her children aged 2 to 9-years-old

A St. Louis, Illinois mother lived her worst nightmare on Friday when she lost all five of her children in a house fire.

Sabrina Dunigan, a 34-year-old single mother, was driving someone to work early in the morning on Friday, according to authorities, and when she returned to her home, the apartment was in a blaze and her five children were still inside.

The mother went in fight mode, desperately trying to re-enter the building and save her children to no avail.

The St. Clair County Coroner identified the victims of the fire as 2-year-old Loyal Dunigan, 4-year-old Jabari Johnson, 7-year-old twins Heaven and Nevaeh Dunigan and 9-year-old Deontay Dunigan.

Dunigan and her family are mourning five young loved ones who died in an apartment fire in East St. Louis on their mom’s birthday. https://t.co/5ATGSiXBBB

— THV11 (@THV11) August 7, 2021

“It’s hard. It’s just so hard,” said Sabrina’s aunt Sheila Dunigan about the incident. Five months prior, the family’s home burned down causing them to move into the apartment with Dunigan’s parents. “Our family has never taken a hit like this, ever. We are devastated. We are broken.”

The tragedy happened on Dunigan’s birthday, hours before a friend was supposed to bring over balloons for her party.

The sudden fire reportedly started at around 3 a.m. on the second floor of the apartment building in East St. Louis across from the playground at Annette Harris Officer Elementary School.

There are mixed reports about who was in the building with the children during the time of the fire. Her mother’s sister said Sabrina’s parents, Greg and Vanicia Dunigan, were staying at the back of the apartment and the children were near the front.

Both parents jumped out the back window to safety. Greg says he tried to go back to get the children, but the fire was too strong at the time. Vanicia was treated for smoke inhalation.

The county coroner said four of the children were found dead inside the apartment, with the fifth one dying after being brought to a hospital.

Police and investigators are not sure what caused the fire, but are investigating the issue.

The remains of apartment complex on 560 North 29th Street in St. Louis that caught on fire at 3 a.m. on August 6, 2021. The fire claimed the life of Sabrina Dunigan, a single mother, five children. (Photo Cred: Associated Press)

“No one knows the facts about anything,” said Sheila. “We’re asking people to let us mourn.”

A year and a half ago, the family of eight was displaced after Dunigan said her former boyfriend set her home on fire. The case was settled, a family member said, and everyone made it out safe.

The family of eight had been living in this new apartment — which was a one-bedroom unit that the family converted into two living areas — for a year and a half.

“I just want everybody to pray for my niece because this is a tragedy,” said Etta McCray, another one of Dunigan’s aunts.

The family also defended Dunigan from criticisms about her parenting.

“People are judging my niece,” said Sheila about Dunigan. “Please, don’t judge her. Pray for her, that’s all I’m asking right now.” The family and friends have set up a GoFundMe to support Dunigan.

Three residents that lived in the other units in the building, were able to safely evacuate.

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