Sunday, April 21, 2024

Too late to save his sweetheart


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“BABY, BABY, the place on fire . . . the place on fire, they robbing the store . . . come and get me.”
These were some of the final words of 18-year-old Pearl Cornelius, one of the victims of last Friday night’s fire tragedy at the Campus Trendz store in Tudor Street, The City.
At the time, Cornelius, affectionately called Amanda by her family and close friends, was speaking to her boyfriend, 21-year-old Jeffrey Joseph.
“I was at home. Me and my mother were watching the news when the television just went black and as soon as it came back on, I got a telephone call from Amanda,” he recalled.
Visited girlfriend
Joseph, an assistant draughtsman with the National Petroleum Corporation (NPC), said he had earlier visited his girlfriend at the Tudor Street store but left just after 6 p.m. to return home.
When he got the news that “Amanda” was trapped in the fire, without hesitation Joseph jumped into his father’s van and drove towards the scene.
But a backup of traffic slowed him down.
“So I just jumped out the van and ran the rest of the way,” he said.
He received several calls from “Amanda” during this period but some of them were interrupted as a result of a malfunctioning phone.
Ran to the back
“The phone ring out a couple of times, but I remember calling her back when I got near to the fire and she said she and the other girls had run to the back of the store in the bathroom.”
Reality soon struck Joseph when he arrived at the scene of the fire.
Not only was the fire frightening as black smoke billowed into the sky, but his efforts to contact his girlfriend proved futile.
“I tried calling back Amanda, but all I was getting was voice mail,” he said.
His worst fears were confirmed several hours afterwards when the news broke that “Amanda”, his childhood sweetheart, was among the six who had perished in the burning building. (TS)


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