Young Englewood fire victims honored at funeral

April 17, 2011 5:54:30 AM PDT
Three children killed in a South Side fire were laid to rest Saturday.

The fire broke out early last Thursday in a building on South Emerald in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood.

Investigators say the blaze was sparked by a 4-year-old boy who was playing with a cigarette lighter in his bunk bed.

Upon realizing what was happening, the children's parents tried to put the fire out themselves but failed. Despite frantically trying to get all their children out, the flames spread too quickly. The parents were able to get seven of their 10 children out of the building safely, but 4-year-old Joseph Austin, 9-year-old Stacey Austin Jr. and 2-year-old Dashiya Austin were killed.

In the aftermath of the fire, the children's father tried to make sense of it all.

"My kids were the healthiest, happiest strongest kids that you ever want to see, and I'm going to miss them. But it do believe God had a better plan for them. He called them early. That was His will, and I just have to live with that," father Stacey Austin said.

Saturday's services began with a visitation at 9 a.m. The funeral was scheduled from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Both took place at the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ on Chicago's South Side.

Some of the firefighters who tried to save the children were among the mourners.

"They were a very close knit family. They're very close, so I can imagine that their hearts are broken today," said mourner Randall Dyer, technology coordinator at Banneker Elementary.

The costs of the funeral have been donated as the family not only lost three of its 10 children in the April 7 fire, but they also lost all their possessions. In fact, a fund has been set up for them to collect basics items like clothing, especially for the surviving children.

Information on donating (provided by Calahan Funeral Home)

While some of the funeral costs have been paid for, there are related expenses still pending. The Austins have also received some clothing donations for the children, but the couple also lost their own clothes and are in need of clothing as well.

Checks can be sent to the: Austin Family Fund, U.S. Bank, 815 W. 63rd St., Chicago, IL 60621 or to the Calahan Funeral Home, 7030 S. Halsted, Chicago, IL 60621. The Calahans have vowed to help the Austin couple.

The children are survived by their parents: father, Stacey L. Austin, mother, Semantha Sims, brothers: Devion Sims, 12, Jaylan Austin, 5, and Lamar Austin, 6-months, and sisters: Simone Austin, 10, Jamiya Austin, 7, Dayjah Austin, 6, and Samaria Austin, 1.

For those wishing to donate clothes to the surviving children and the parents, here are their sizes:
Boys: Devion Sims, 12, clothes size12-14, shoe size, 6. Jaylan Austin, 5, clothes size 5T, shoe size, 13 Toddler. Lamar Austin, 6-months old, clothes size 18 months-24-months, shoe size 4 baby.
Girls: Simone Austin, 10, clothes size10-12, shoe size 4, Jamiya Austin, 7, clothes size 10-12, shoe size 3. Dayjah,6, clothes size 6, shoe size, 2. Samaria Austin, 1, clothes size 2T-3T and shoe size 5 Toddler.

The parents' sizes are as follows:

Mr. Austin: pants: 38 waist, length 34
Shirt: 171/2 or Extra Double X
Shoes: 13
Jacket: Double X

His wife's sizes are:
Pants: 14
Blouse: Extra Large
Shoes: 9
Jacket: Double X


Edward Calahan
President or
Shirley A. Calahan
Vice President
Calahan Funeral Home, Inc.
7030 S. Halsted
Chicago, IL 60621
(773) 723-4400

Funeral donations still needed