Family members mourn loved ones lost in Schuyler Street fire

By GARY LIBERATORE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The street surrounding the 900 block of Schuyler Street were lined with neighbors, family members, and even strangers, all praying for Leida Suelie Santiago and her children, even those who did not know them.

As those people stood along the street, not knowing at the time whether there were children inside the structure or not, many began to pray that the children they knew lived there weren't at home.

"I'm praying to god, in my heart that everybody was okay," said one neighborhood resident.

"I feel real bad for them, I really do," said another. "Cause' I know how it is to lose somebody."

However, the fears of all those on the street were quickly realized, as neighbors witnessed one young body come out, followed by another, including the mother who family members say would never have left her children behind.

"She wouldn't leave her kids, no, she wouldn't leave her kids for nothing," said Tiffiny Wilson, the victims' cousin. "You could have all the money in the world in front of her and she wouldn't leave her kids, that's who she was, she was a mom. And the kids...just fun loving, like to beat stuff up and play around. They were just great boys, great."

Wilson said the children were four years old, two years old, and an infant.

"Sebastian is the infant," she said. "Julius is the oldest. He's a little stinker and Matias is the two year old."

Wilson said she is a cousin to the babies' father, and a best friend to Santiago.

"She didn't deserve this," Wilson said. "Those babies definitely didn't deserve this."

Santiago, along with three of her children, were all lost in the fire, but her ten year old daughter is still alive, and was said to be at school at the time. She is currently staying with her grandmother.

She says the investigation and what happened may take center stage in the days to come, but not now, not for her.

"What does it make a difference, it's not going to bring her back," Wilson said. "It's not going to bring those beautiful babies back."

While Wilson is right that it won't make a difference, if it does turn out to be arson, Utica Police say they will be on this case until they catch those responsible and bring them to justice.

"From what we're hearing, yeah, somebody saw somebody throw something," Wilson said. "Someone saw somebody throw something. Is that a solid? No, it's just what people are saying, so I don't know. For somebody to do that it's horrible."

No matter what happens, it was evident Monday that the 900 block of Schuyler Street is going to be a sad street for a long time to come.

"I can't imagine," Wilson said. "I had a fire in August. Luckily we weren't home. We lost our dogs and everything we owned, but we lived, and she was there for me through the whole thing, and for this to happen to her, it's not...she was just a great person."

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