Vigil Honors Fire Victims
by Laura Monteverdi, Reporter
December 24, 2012 3:46 PM
On Sunday night, the Sioux Falls community held a candlelight vigil in memory of three children that died in a house fire early Saturday morning.
The vigil was held for 16-year-old Michael Hensley, 12-year-old Savannah Coon and 6-year-old Olivia Coon.
“The day I heard what happened, I didn't want to believe it,” said John Stellmach. “I just didn't know what to do.”
"When I heard what happened and that they were gone, I just broke down in tears," said Stellmach, as tears poured down his face.
Stellmach said he lived with the children’s grandmother and thought of Michael, Savannah and ‘Liv,’ as some affectionately called her, as family.
“We always spent time together. When we were playing tag, Savannah sometimes joined in and she always got Olivia and I let her get me so I could get her,” he said.
Stellmach was one of nearly 70 people who attended the candlelight vigil.
"I used to baby-sit Savannah and Liv and Michael,” said Meisha Howard. “They were such great kids and I love them so much.”
Rows of candles and teddy bears lined the sidewalk in front of the house as family, friends and even complete strangers mourned the loss in the community.
Rhiannon and David White, the children's mother and stepfather were also there, speaking to the crowd through tears and clinging to their loved ones for support.
Both Rhiannon and David escaped the fire with minor injuries. The family had only lived in the 2-story house at 1100 N Main Avenue for about a month before the fire.