ARCADIA — We’re hearing from a family in Arcadia dealing with an unimaginable loss.
The sister of a 13-year-old girl who was killed in a house fire tells us her sister loved animals. That’s why Laiellah Hatcher ran back into the burning building to try to save the family dogs.
Kristina Hatcher lives right next door to the house that caught fire. She said she woke up to the flames Tuesday morning, and quickly learned her sister was the only one still missing.
Hatcher said, as fire crews tried to get the flames under control, she started looking for Laiellah.
"I looked everywhere over here. I looked in my trucks, I looked under my trucks, hoping that maybe she thought somewhere I was at was a safe space," said Hatcher.
But as time passed, Hatcher said it became more likely that Laiellah was still inside. Finally, she said her brother Cameron went in.
"He tried to find her, but the smoke overwhelmed him. He tried to do everything he can, and he’s carrying that on his shoulders very heavily," said Hatcher.
Hatcher said they got the word around 5:30 Tuesday morning that Laiellah was found inside, right next to her dog.
"It brought comfort to me that she at least made it to her dog, and was able to be there with her dog," said Hatcher.
Hatcher said Laiellah loved all animals, and wanted to be a veterinarian. Laiellah had autism, but she was also a talented artist.
"She would draw horses and lions, and you wouldn’t think that this 13-year-old girl could draw like she did," said Hatcher.
Once Laiellah’s story was out there, the community responded immediately. A Go Fund Me page has already raised more than $12,000 for the family at the time of publishing this article.
We asked Hatcher how she hopes Laiellah is remembered.
"I want people to remember her as a hero, and a fighter. I want people to know that autism doesn’t hold you back. You can be anybody you want to be, no matter the disabilities," said Hatcher.
We’ve also learned Cameron, the brother who ran into the house after Laiellah, is out of the hospital, but Hatcher’s mother is still in critical condition.
Desoto County officials tell us they’re still working to learn what caused the fire.