Kids struggling with the loss of two friends in Elkhart house fire

ELKHART, Ind. -- Grant Street was at times bumper-to-bumper Monday evening as cars drove by the home where three people died in a house fire in the early morning hours. 

Jose Gudalupe and his two sons Ricardo Aguilar, 12 and Aldolfo Aguilar, 7 died in the fire. 

A 10-year-old, 8-month-old, Maria Aguilar and two uncles were able to escape. 

The fire, which is believed to be intentionally set started just before 2 a.m. Monday morning at 1108 Grant Street. 

Neighbors said Jose was able to get out of the home and went back inside to rescue his sons, he didn't make it back out alive. 

Balloons, stuffed animals, cards and candles surround the base of a basketball hoop in front of the home. 

Lisa Echevarria and her daughter Jazmine were one of the many who stopped by with a teddy bear to place in memory of the boys.

"He is up in heaven," Jazmine said with an innocent smile. Jazmine went to school and was friends with Aldolfo. 

"He is nice and we play together and we talk and play with someone else too," she said in present tense even though her friend is no longer here. 

Her mom Lisa said it is just so sad this happened, "It's sad and tragic that it would happen to this family. 

Echevarria lost her own daughter in November and knows what it is like to go through this kind of pain. 

"It's hard what a mother goes through when she losses somebody." 

Parents were struggling Monday to explain what happened to their kids and how to understand. Echevarria offers this advice, "Just to grieve with them. If they ask questions give them the answers. Like I tell my kids God needed another angel. 

Ricardo attended North Side Middle school, his brother Aldolfo, was a student a Beardsley Elementary. 

Friends described Ricardo as an excellent athlete who was a star on the soccer field. 

Aldolfo was said to have a contagious smile that will live on forever. 

Chucky Koewers, 13, was best friends with the brothers and couldn't help but fight back tears as he stood outside their home. 

"They were my best friends. They were really nice and stuff," Koewers said through tears. 

"I'm going to miss them so much, both of them," he said walking into his cousin's embrace. 

There were lots of tears and even anger knowing that someone set the home on fire intentionally. 

"It made me mad, I just wanted to cry." 

"You don't know why, you really want to know why it happened. That's what I'm thinking, why would someone do this to this family?" Echevarria said. 

Investigators have said they believe the fire and additional stabbings are connected--although stop at that statement. No additional details have been offered linking the violent chain of events. 

A vigil is planned for 9:30 p.m. Tuesday outside of the home, everyone is invited to attend. 

A formal fund is being set up through a local bank for the surviving family members. In the meantime the Boys and Girls Club is accepting donations. So far $2,000 has been collected.

The home was insured, but everything was lost. 

The home was valued at $75,000, it's estimated that 90-percent of the home is a loss. 

Grief counselors will be on hand for students and parents that need assistance during their time of grief. 


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