The community is coming together to help a family devastated after three little girls, all under the age of 5, were killed in a fire in Pot-Nets Bayside Wednesday.
But Wharton and a restaurant in the community have come together to help raise money to pay for the funerals of 4-year-old twins Veronica and Skylar Marchuk, and their baby cousin Amaya Genter. All three children were found in the back room of a manufactured home that had caught fire on Scarpa Drive on August 7, 2019.
"The smoke did start piling up right behind us, so the whole staff saw the smoke and they could tell something was going on," said Sandy Samsel, controller for Paradise Grill. "When we got the news, it was heartbreaking for everybody here and everybody in the community."
A makeshift memorial sits outside the family's home.
"This is really a time where our community comes together, pulls together as one to help each other out--even complete strangers," said Wharton. "It really hits home with all of us, and we, probably like you, have been upset crying, and I don't even know these guys. But we'll do this for the greater good and give them the send-off that they deserve."
A GoFundMe has raised more than $10,000 so far for the families.
"We can only assure and make sure that the children understand that we're with them, to stand tall, to protect them. Children think concretely, and they're thinking: 'Can this happen to my house? Can this happen in our neighborhood?'" said Paulette Rappa, membership chair of the Long Neck Sunrise Rotary Club.
Fire scanner chatter showed confusion, initially, according to Indian River Volunteer Fire Company, which responded to the scene.
"Everybody is out of the house, there's heavy smoke showing and flames."
Next, the voice over the scanner said: "Residents just advised that there is still kids in the house, we're still in the process of searching, haven't found anything yet."
Thirty minutes later: "We have three victims found down in the back bedroom."
A 2-year-old child survived the fire.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael Chionchio said no working smoke detectors were found in the home.
"We ask everybody to use this, maybe, as a reminder--go home, check your smoke alarms, talk to your children, and have a fire escape plan," he said.