Memorial grows for mother, children killed in Utica fire

Leida Santiago and her family

Flowers, balloons, stuffed animals, and toys line the front yard of the Schuyler Street duplex that was the scene of a tragic fire. There are also messages written on plywood, including the names of the victims.

Leida Santiago, 31, and three of her children, 4-year-old Julius Rolon, 2-year-old Matias Rolon, and 1-year-old Sebastian Rolon, were killed when a fire sparked in their home Monday. Carloads of people continued to visit the fire scene and the two picnic tables full of memorabilia, photographs, candles, poems and prayers Wednesday.

Among them was Melissa Durant, a friend of the family. She said today, her thoughts are with 9-year-old Rosa Santiago, who was at school when her mother and three brothers were killed. "I feel for Rosa, she lost four people in one day." Durant told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon, " think she has to grow up without her mom and her brothers."

Oneida County Coroner Steven Wolanin confirmed to CNY Central Wednesday morning that the cause of death of the victims was smoke inhalation.

The cause of the fire itself is still under investigation. Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks says it will be several more days before the cause and origin team determines the exact cause of the fire. He says a number of "articles" removed from the fire scene are being analyzed at various laboratories. He says investigators are also interviewing a number of people. Brooks says they "will leave no stone unturned."

Community members are coming together to support the surviving family members. Aside from the memorial, there is also a benefit car wash being held at Technical Auto Care in Utica. It is scheduled from 9:00am - 5:00pm on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

The owner of Technical Auto Care, Mike Romanowski is a close friend of Matt Rolan, the father of the three boys. "It's been hard on all of us, especially in this community...but we all pulled together." Romanowski said.

Many people simply stopped by to hand over cash, not even asking for a car wash. Proceeds will go towards funeral costs and any money left over will be given to Rosa Santiago, according to Romanowski.