Father still waiting to bury son six months after devastating fire

Human remains found in the rubble were so charred they were apparently initially mistaken for an animal (Photo by Gemma Handy. Dequan Cummins, 16, has not been seen since the fire (Photo contributed)
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By Gemma Handy

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Six months after a horrific fire destroyed three Nut Grove homes, a heartbroken father is still waiting for authorities to confirm if charred human remains found among the rubble are those of his teenage son.

Michael Cummins told Observer of the agonising wait for the return of DNA samples sent overseas for analysis.

His son Dequan, 16, who lived with him, has not been seen since the January 10 blaze. But without official confirmation that the body is his, the family are unable to bury him and pay their final respects.

The devastation wreaked by the blaze was so severe that the badly burnt body was apparently initially mistaken for an animal.

The 44-year-old father – who works in landscaping and maintenance – previously spent weeks searching for his boy. He had raised the child since he was a toddler after the boy’s mother moved to Guyana.

Cummins added that he was trying his hardest to make peace with what had happened and remain positive.

Dequan, who attended Jennings Secondary School, was described as one who loved plants, along with playing football and basketball.

Previous cases involving pathology reports have been delayed due to non-payment by government to professionals based overseas.

Government spokesman Lionel Hurst confirmed tardy payments had initially held up formal identification of the Nut Grove body, but was unable to say if the bill had since been settled.

 “My guess is, it has now been paid and the results will be released,” he said, but added, “We owe the lab in Trinidad for lots of other things; they do a lot of forensic work for us and they need to get paid for it. Covid devastated our finances.”

Meanwhile, the residents of the three destroyed houses are still battling to get back on their feet after losing almost everything they own.

Cummins is currently vulnerably housed in Ovals, while his sister Lisa, who lived adjacent to him and also lost her home, has temporarily moved to Gray’s Farm.

“I am waiting for a piece of land from government; I am just hoping and praying they will help me rebuild. Where I am living now is not healthy for me,” she said.

The resident of the third gutted property is said to be staying with relatives.

Minister Steadroy Benjamin, who has responsibility for the police force, said the lengthy wait for official identification of the body had not been brought to his attention.

“If and when it is, I will certainly use my authority to get certain things done,” he added.

Police spokesman Inspector Frankie Thomas told Observer, “We are still awaiting the forensic analysis to officially make a determination and identification of the human remains.

“We continue to have dialogue with the family to keep them updated,” he explained.

Fire Chief Elvis Weaver told Observer on Saturday that investigations by his team had determined the blaze was started accidentally by an open flame.

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