Tragic fire that killed two Czech children prompts large donation campaign

Fire flame
Fire stock image. July 2003.. (Giovanni Dall'Orto / Wikimedia Commons)

The cause of a of six-year-old Antonin Kellner and his five-year-old sister Alice has still not been determined though rumors persist it involved a Christmas tree going up in flames. A in Emmen collected nearly 66 thousand euros for parents David and Jindriska Kellner, as of Tuesday morning.

Jan Jeuring was quickly kicked in the back gate of his neighbor's home to try and help when area residents heard the children's mother, Jindriska, screaming. "Her cries cut through your bones. She shrieked, 'Christmas tree is burning. Children!'" Jeuring said to newspaper AD. The newspaper also identified the victims in the fire.

"The flames from the home rose many meters high; the windows shattered," he said. The father, David, came out with a ladder to try and climb up to the kids' upper bedroom window. "But it was one big sea of flames," said Jeuring.

Jan's wife Claudia started the crowdfunding campaign to try and ease the family's financial burden during an already difficult time. "From the money, they can buy furniture, clothes, something to memorialize the children, whatever they want," Jeuring told AD. "They must be able to mourn without financial worries."

Speaking to the Telegraaf, Jan Jeuring noted the somber mood in the neighborhood on the New Year's holiday. Normally, the streets are full of celebrants, but nobody was out lighting fireworks or wishing each other good luck in the new year, he said.

Claudia said it was "surreal" to the Telegraaf, and said it was nice that the neighborhood came together for a moment of silence on Saturday evening. She was touched that people were able to cry together and share their grief.

"They have nothing left. Their whole existence has been wiped out," she said to the AD. She added that the community really wanted to help give the Kellner's a fresh start, to the extent that is possible. 

Noting the family did not have sufficient insurance to cover the loss of their possessions, she praised funeral insurance provider Monuta for stepping forward and offering to cover the costs of the children's burial.

Meanwhile, the parents were housed in a hotel provided by the municipality once they were released from the hospital. Jindriska Kellner was kept sedated as part of a treatment against symptoms of smoke inhalation.

Antonin attended the Tine Marcusschool in Emmen, a school for kids with speech and hearing disabilities. A meeting was planned there for Tuesday with the parents of children enrolled there, and employees of the school.

"This has such an impact on everyone. We enormously share the grief with the parents," said the school's representative, Mira Vermeulen, in an interview with AD. She said the meeting was called even though the winter school break is still in place for another week.