Earlier this year Zyaire Mitchell, 12, and Lamar, 9, died following a house fire in Michigan. Now, their mother is pushing for an independent investigation after allegations that two Flint firefighters lied about searching the home for survivors, per an CNN report. The two are also facing a civil suit from the family.
On May 28, a fire sparked in a house on West Pulaski Street which was caused by faulty electrical wiring, found the state fire investigators. The two firefighters in question, Daniel Sniegocki and Michael Zlotek, declared an all-clear after responding to the fire. However, six minutes later, two other firefighters found the Mitchell boys among the debris. A report by Flint Fire Department Chief Raymond Barton, found Sniegocki and Zlotek made false reports, claiming they checked the second floor where the boys were located.
When the boys were found, they were taken to the hospital where they died of smoke inhalation.
Read more about Barton’s report from MLive.com:
Barton initially recommended that both firefighters be fired — a decision that was later overturned through what the fire chief has said was “advisement” with City Attorney William Kim, Human Resources Department Director Eddie Smith, and City Administrator Clyde Edwards.
The fire chief’s report says that during his own walk-through of the home, he saw no signs that searches were carried out in any of the second-floor bedrooms in accordance with department training, noting one bed was still made with undisturbed items on it.
A representative of Flint Firefighters Local 352 has said the two men have been made scapegoats in the case even though they failed to search a small room on the second floor because of extreme heat and very low visibility.
Attorneys Robert Kenner Jr. and Todd Flood filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of the boys’ family, per the report. Flood is known for prosecuting cases related to the Flint water crisis. Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said he will investigate whether criminal charges are warranted.
After the exposure of their sloppy actions, Sneigocki resigned from his position and Zlotek was put on unpaid two-week suspension with additional training, per the CNN. Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley advised the department not to terminate the firefighters which Kenner blasted as a political strategy given Neeley’s opposition in the mayoral race. Of course politics would get in the way of accountability.
Two innocent lives were lost - a tragedy that could’ve been prevented within just six minutes. As the firefighters get to walk free of criminal prosecution, the family of the Mitchell boys are left grieving and wondering why the people tasked with saving their lives chose not to.
“Only if I could just give six minutes, my babies would still be here with me. I just want justice for them. They didn’t deserve this. Every day is a struggle knowing that I won’t see them anymore,” said the boys’ mother, Crystal Cooper, in a press conference.