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'A tragedy felt by all of us' — Boy, 8, dies from burns

Sweet angel.

A truly beautiful spirit.

An amazing little boy.

People who knew 8-year-old G'Shawn McGee struggled Saturday to understand the how and why of his death.

Badly burned in a fire that also claimed his sister Cianna, 4, and their aunt, Brianna Ross, 26, the Bennett Park Montessori student died overnight at Oishei Children's Hospital, police said Saturday.

The children's mother, Shawniqua Johnson, also suffered serious burns in the fire and is still hospitalized at Erie County Medical Center.

News of G'Shawn's death came just hours before investigators determined the fire early Friday morning at 231 Shirley Ave. was "accidental" and started in the kitchen.

"This was a true loss to humanity," one woman wrote on a page dedicated to the family. "Montessori weeps at the loss of G'Shawn, a truly beautiful spirit. Rest in heaven sweet angel."

Buffalo fire investigators at the scene of the overnight fire on Shirley Avenue that claimed the lives of a 26-year-old woman and a 4-year-old girl and left an 8-year-old boy in critical condition. (Aaron Besecker/Buffalo News)

G'Shawn, who was in critical condition after suffering burns over 80 percent of his body, was remembered as a third-grader who touched lives on a daily basis.

"We are all so saddened as a school community," one woman wrote on the page. "He will be missed by so many."

"G'Shawn was an amazing little boy that I was blessed to know," added another woman. "God bless his family."

Shortly after G'Shawn died, the Rev. Darius Pridgen, president of the Buffalo Common Council, announced that True Bethel Baptist Church, where he is the pastor, will raise money to help the family.

Pridgen, in a Facebook post, said the fire was "nothing short of tragic," and said his "heart, prayers and dollars go out to the family."

"There is a suggestion in the bible that to whom much is given, much is expected," he said in an interview Saturday. "This is calling for help to others who might not otherwise have met this family."

Mayor Byron W. Brown, after learning of G'Shawn's death, also offered condolences to the family.

"This is a tragedy felt by all of us, and we will continue to pray and offer support during this difficult time," Brown said in a tweet Saturday.

Buffalo Fire Commissioner William Renaldo said the two children were found in a rear bedroom on the second floor. He said the mother and father escaped out of a second-floor window and at one point were on the roof of the front porch.

The 8-year-old in the Shirley St. fire has died. This is nothing less than tragic. My heart, prayers, and dollars go out...

Posted by Darius Pridgen on Saturday, December 22, 2018

Robert Jones, the father, told reporters on Friday that a smoke detector alerted him to the fire and he spent the next several minutes trying to locate everyone in the house.

At one point, he said, power in the house went out and he lost track of family members in the dark.

"I walked down the stairs because I thought maybe somebody left the oven on or something," Jones said. "When I got to the stairs, I couldn't even go down the stairs. It was too smoky."

Jones said he told everyone to follow him out of the house but the children, who had had asthma, never made it out.

"He was right behind us," Jones said of his stepson. "He said, 'I can't breathe, I can't breathe.' "

Renaldo said the first floor was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived at the house. He said Ross was pronounced dead at the scene.

"He was attempting to get the whole family out of that second-story window," Renaldo said of Jones, "but unfortunately they didn't make it."

Father on trying to save trapped family from fire: 'There was pretty much nothing I could do'

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