On 2-year anniversary of deadly Flora fire, family honors 4 sisters killed

FLORA, Ind. – A balloon release in Flora on Wednesday will mark two years since four young sisters died in a house fire.

The fire took place in the heart of downtown Flora on November 21, 2016. Keyana Davis, 11, Keyara Phillips, 9, Kerriele McDonald, 7, and Kionnie Welch, 5 were trapped inside the home on Columbia Street when it went up in flames. Their mother, Gaylin Rose, made it out.

Indiana State Police said they have received tips in the last several months and are looking at persons of interest, but no one has been arrested.

Family and friends met at the Pizza King in Flora at 6:30 pm to remember the girls.

"Man, it's hard.  All four of them died together.  They were always together, happy kids," said the children's Great Uncle Louis Rose, "Those kid's mother right now is, man she is in bad shape.  She's taking it hard. What do you tell someone who has lost all their babies?"

In the meantime, a wrongful death lawsuit filed in Hammond on behalf of Rose, named Josh Ayres, his business partner Troy Helderman, and their company Birch Tree Holdings.

The suit alleges that Rose complained about a lack of working smoke detectors, non-functioning electrical outlets, and non-locking doors in the home before the fire.

The suit also includes a product liability claim against Whirlpool and Sears over a range appliance in the home.

"Our investigation revealed that the cause of death was a lack of any working smoke detectors and a contributing factor was a defective kitchen appliance," said Faith E. Alvarez, an attorney with Lee, Cossell & Crowley, LLP which filed the lawsuit.

Jackie Partlow, the girls' great aunt said she hasn't heard much about the investigation this year, but she's still hoping for answers soon.

“Whatever happened, however it happened, if somebody did it, I hope they can’t sleep knowing that they took four lives. If they didn’t do it, then I hope they find out why.”

On this anniversary, she is hoping people will set aside the case and their opinions for a moment and focus on the girls.

"We haven’t forgotten and we’ll never forget."

The investigation has been plagued with setbacks. On the one-year anniversary of the fire, ISP said there’s nothing new with the investigation.

Over the past year, the investigation has taken many turns, but yielded few answers. FOX59 exposed inaccuracies in the state fire investigator’s initial report, which stated accelerants were found “all over the house.” In reality, state police said they were only found in one spot.

The state fire investigator was the first to resign. Then the county prosecutor announced his retirement at the end of this year for personal reasons. Flora’s fire chief also resigned.

If you know anything about the fire, you’re encouraged to call police at 1-800-382-4628. Callers may remain anonymous. There is a reward up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest in the case.