LaPlace trailer fire takes two lives

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 5, 1999

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / June 5, 1999

LAPLACE – The trailer fire which caused the death of a man and his infant son is being treated as a call for a full-time LaPlace fire department.

Meanwhile, a state fire marshal investigator suspects cigarette smoking as the cause of the tragedy.

David Reed, 31, a self-employed sheetrock hanger, and his son, David Cooke, 1, were at home at 114 Kathy Drive, off McReine Road. Both died inthe fire.

Wake services for the infant are today at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church,beginning at 8:30 a.m., with the funeral set for 10 a.m. and interment atSt. John Memorial Gardens.However, the family of Lisa Cooke is unable to pay the funeral cost for her son, David. The family would appreciate any contributions for the funeralarrangements. Contributions may be made at any Hibernia Bank. Makecontributions to the Account for David Cooke, account number 8004883234.

Reed’s fiancee’, Lisa Cooke Gould, 24, and their daughter, Airel, 2, were visiting her brother’s wife at Lakeside Hospital. They had left Reed towatch the baby at 9:30 p.m.Gould recalled that her fianc’ smoked cigarettes. State Fire Marshalinvestigator Donald Carter strongly suspects Reed was sitting in a living room chair, smoking, and possibly nodded off with a lit cigarette.

Reed was found face down on the floor near the chair, a few feet away from where his son lay in a playpen.

Just before 11 p.m., neighbors noticed smoke from the trailer and beganbeating on doors and walls. Police and fire departments were called.LaPlace VFD Chief Bobby Bourgeois said the first call was received at 10:56 p.m. and the first unit arrived at the scene at 11:03 p.m. Neighbors,however, claimed the first fire truck did not arrive for at least 30 minutes.

Catherine Mayeaux, next door at 120 Kathy, said of Bourgeois’ claim: “Ain’t no way! The cops got here 10 minutes after we called, and they (the firefighters) took almost 30 minutes to get here. It was like no sense ofemergency.”Lt. Michael Tregre of the St. John Sheriff’s Office said it is common forpeople at a fire to unknowingly exaggerate the actual response time to a fire, as it “seems to take forever” for firefighters to respond.

Mayeaux continued, “We need to have a town meeting for a paid, full-time fire department and more stations. I want this to be a wake-up call forLaPlace to get a bigger fire department.”Neighbors and Lisa Gould’s father, Ken Cooke Sr., attempted in vain toenter the smoking trailer. Once the door was opened, Cooke said hecrawled in on his knees to search for anyone. “I thought they were alldead,” he added. “I didn’t see no fire.”Cooke continued, “They might’ve been dead already,” and added the toxic smoke drove him back before he could barely enter the trailer.

Jeannie Snyder, a neighbor across the street, backed up Cooke. “It didn’tlook bad at the beginning, then it went up so quickly,” she said. Mayeaux’sdaughter, Andrea, 15, was running from home to home, knocking on doors to alert the neighborhood. Another neighbor tried to direct a garden hoseat the smoking trailer.

When firefighters arrived, Bourgeois said, “It was fully involved.”Gould returned from the hospital about 11:15 p.m. and claimed firefightershad not yet arrived. “The fire trucks took so long!” she said. Gould wasforcibly restrained by neighbors from running to the fire upon her arrival, Mayeaux said.

The couple had planned to marry next June. Little David had justcelebrated his first birthday after a difficult period, suffering from reflux, a condition where he couldn’t retain liquids, Gould remembered.

She said, in recent weeks the baby was recovering and gaining weight.

“He had the prettiest little laughing smile,” Gould commented, choking back sobs.

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