by: Jeff Smith Updated:
STATESVILLE, N.C. - Statesville fire investigators are still trying to piece together what started a deadly house fire Sunday morning.
The early morning blaze took the life of a 9-year-old boy who was trapped inside, as his older sister and other neighbors tried desperately to save him.
"I am very broken, just so heartbroken," said Lareik Ramseur's grandfather, Ray Ramseur. "He never met a stranger."
When Eyewitness News met Ray Ramseur he was holding a stack of photos of his only grandson. He said Lareik was a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan, and he loved to draw and paint at school.
"He was just a happy-go-lucky kid," he said.
Firefighters said the fire started on the first floor. Witnesses told Eyewitness News they could see a small white candle burning earlier in the evening.
The smoke quickly spread to the upstairs bedroom, where Lareik Ramseur was sleeping with his 12-year-old sister Rae-Neisha Ramseur.
Witnesses saw Rae-Neisha jumped out of the second story window to safety, and she called for her brother to follow, but he never did.
"She was like, 'Help! Help!' And she was calling his name and stuff like that," said next-door neighbor Betty Ikard.
"We couldn't run in there because we couldn't see. We were just screaming his name. 'Lareik! Lareik! Lareik!'" said Willy Martin.
Neighbor Willy Martin kicked in the back door, but said it was too hot to run inside.
"I wish I could have saved him," he said. "The fire was too intense, it was too intense. Me and two other dudes we tried, we tried all we could. We couldn't get in there."
Family members said Lareik suffered from asthma and other breathing problems.
His mother works the overnight shift at the front desk of a local security company, Lake Norman Security.
She was at work, supporting her family, when the fire started. Family members said she's inconsolable.
"He ain't nothing but a child. His mom was out there trying to make a living for him and doing the best she can," Martin said, choking back tears.
Statesville firefighters said they're still investigating what exactly started the fire.
Lareik Ramseur was a fourth grader at Cloverleaf Elementary.
"Right now, I'm numb. But I know that he's in a better place," said his grandfather.
His funeral arrangements haven't been finalized.