FLINT (WJRT) (06/18/2019) - Fourteen men and women who battled an Imlay City mobile home fire that claimed the lives for four children were among 17 first responders honored by the Hundred Club of Genesee, Shiawassee and Lapeer Counties.
Imlay City police officer Sara Colin had just been on the job for just four months when the call came in during the early morning hours of Feb. 26.
"A lot of it happened so quickly, you didn't really have time to sit and thinking about what was going on," she said. "The mother was outside screaming for help that her babies were inside the home."
The front half of the mobile home was completely engulfed in flames. An attempt to enter a window was unsuccessful and Colin ended up burning her hand.
The mother who was outside, 29-year old Krystal Whitney, had suffered severe burns. Colin attended to her, allowing firefighters to enter through the back window of the mobile home.
Matthew Makedonsky, assistant chief of the Imlay Fire Department, described the conditions inside.
"Very hot, smoky conditions, very black , hard to see. We had to be on our hands and knees," he said. "The heat was bearing down on us."
Makedonsky helped remove the children's father, Keith Kelley, two toddlers and an infant through the window.
He explained that mobile home fires are particularly difficult:
"Usually you don't go in and make rescues," he said. "For us to get there in time, to be able to make entry was remarkable."
Despite their heroic efforts, 3-year-old KeyannaRae Kelley did not make it. Her 28-day-old sister Keyairah Kelley died at the hospital the next day.
Keyondre and Keith Kelley, ages 5 and 6, also died in the fire.
Their 18-month-old brother KeyShawn survived, along with his dad.
Firefighter Mark Bodebach Jr. explained what motivates him to run into harm's way.
"Somebody has to be there to help people, why we signed up, what we do," he said.
Whitney's sister said 42-year-old Keith Kelley is out of the hospital and continues to recover after undergoing many skin grafts. Whitney is also continuing her recovery.
KeyShawn Kelley, the little boy who survived, will be 2 years old in July. He is also recovering after sustaining significant injuries that have affected his vision.
Right now, he is trying to learn how to walk.