Community mourns six children killed in fire

Family, friends and community members paid their final respects Friday to the six children killed Ju

Family, friends and community members paid their final respects Friday to the six children killed June 26 in a fire at 40 Burgoyne Ave. in Fort Edward.

Six small white caskets, each with a photo of a child on it along with flowers, lined the front of the Gospel Lighthouse Church in Hudson Falls as about 250 people attended the funeral services.

“I don’t know how to say goodbye to these children,” said their father, Lewis “Carl” Smith II.

The children, ages 1 to 12, were trapped in the upstairs of the old, two-story home on the morning of the fire.

The fire, reported shortly before 7 a.m., moved so quickly and burned with such heat and intensity that firefighters were not able to reach the victims. Fire officials said the children all died of smoke inhalation.

Smith participated actively in the hour-long service. He thanked the community for standing behind his family.

“Remember these kids for what they were; they were all good people,” Smith said. He talked about each child, their special qualities and his love for them.

Samantha Cox, the mother of four of the children, was able to attend the services and Thursday’s calling hours after being released in recent days from the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla after being treated for burns.

Cox had a large bandage on one of her arms but also participated in the services.

The only child left in the immediate family, Rose Marie Smith, 5, attended the funeral and walked with her father as each small casket was escorted out of the church. Rose was sleeping at a friend’s house at the time of the fire.

The Rev. Rick Yancy of the Faith Bible Baptist Church in Queensbury joined pastor Paul Meade of the Gospel Lighthouse Church in conducting the emotional service that at times left many in the church in tears.

“This was a very, very tragic event, not only for the family but for the whole community,” said Yancy.

“I have never seen so many lives taken in one family,” Yancy said. “Every one of these lives is so, so special.”

Yancy said it’s hard to understand why the tragedy happened, but he said later that God may have wanted these beautiful, innocent children with him in heaven.

The six children, who were buried Friday afternoon in Evergreen Cemetery in Lake George, were Hope Palazzo-Smith, 12, Paige Cox, 8, Lewis “Car Car” Carl Smith III, 7, Mackenzie Palazzo-Smith, 6, Emilie Smith, 3, and Abbigayle Smith, 1.

Fire investigators have not yet determined the cause of the fire, which started in the living room of the home and was considered accidental.

Sgt. Justin Derway of the Fort Edward Police Department said investigators want to talk to Smith and Cox as part of the investigation but are waiting until the funeral services and burial are completed.

“We are trying to be compassionate to the family,” Derway said.

The house on Burgoyne Avenue, which officials said is about 100 years old, is being demolished because it was completely gutted by the fire, Derway said.

Paul Dietrich of Carleton Funeral Home, which handled the funeral, said people in the community have been generous with donations to the family to help cover the burial costs.

Fundraising community dinners are being held, and a special fund has also been established for people who wish to help the family financially. The special account is called “The Cox and Smith Benefit Account” at the Glens Falls National Bank & Trust office at 2019 Route 4 in Hudson Falls, NY 12839.

At the start of the funeral service, a video was played on a large screen in the front of the church. The video featured photos of each child who died accompanied by music, including the song “Sweet Child of Mine.”

“These are memories this family will hold close to their hearts all the days of their lives,” said Meade.

Categories: Schenectady County

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