Trinidad: Granny Dies In Heroic Rescue Bid

(TRINIDAD EXPRESS) – The motherly love of 92-year-old Surujdai Soogrim led her to try to brave her burning house to save her mentally ill son, but tragically both died in the fire on Sunday night in New Grant.

The burnt bodies of Soogrim and her son, Boysie Sonnyboy, 63, were found on the ground floor of the house on School Trace.

Soogrim was a mother of six, a grandmother of ten and a great-grandmother of four.

Sonnyboy, also known as “Boya”, was an outpatient of the psychiatric clinic of the Princes Town District Health Facility and was neither married nor had children.

The cause of the fire is not yet known, said one of Soogrim’s sons, Azim Abdool.

At his home on Clarke Road in Penal, Azim, his wife Wazifa, his sister, Hayroon Samlal, and Azim’s children were distraught as they spoke to reporters about the double tragedy yesterday.

Wazifa said, “Definitely she (Soogrim) did not want to leave him (Sonnyboy) so she went back for him. That is what one of the neighbours told us. When they tried to tell her to come out she did not want to come out. She went back. She said her son was bawling inside. She got trapped. She knew he was inside, probably sleeping at the time.”

“A mother’s love”, added Samlal.

Azim described his mother as “strong for her age” as she cooked meals, and, with his help for transportation, did her own shopping and banking.

Azim’s son, Aziz Abdool, said that fire officers told his family that the two bodies were found on the ground floor.

“One body was in the living room next to the door. We believe that was my grandmother. And the other was my uncle in her bedroom. The bodies fell to the ground underneath,” he said.

“This is something that you cannot unsee. Every time I close my eyes I see this nightmare in front of me. Nothing that I would ever forget. The senior fire officer told me that when they reached the scene, the fire was uncontrollable. They had to look to save the houses on either side, which is what they did. It was just so much they could have done at the scene and I commend them for their service,” said Aziz.

Azim said he had asked his mother several times to move in with him with his family, but she declined and preferred to live at her house and take care of his step-brother.

He said that his mother sometimes spent nights at his family’s house, but would return to her home.

Azim’s daughter, Annicer, visited her grandmother and took lunch for them on Sunday at around 1 p.m. and stayed about an hour.

That night at around 11 o’clock, the family was alerted to the fire via a phone call from one of Soogrim’s neighbours on School Trace.

When Azim and his family arrived at the scene, the wooden house was already engulfed in flames and fire officers were battling the blaze.

Azim said that he heard that the fire was first spotted by a resident on School Trace who was walking past his mother’s house and saw the flames.

He said his mother was sitting in their gallery with the front door closed, and she was looking out on the street as there was a wake for a neighbour a few houses away.

“We heard when the villagers were talking at the scene that it was someone who was coming from the wake up the road saw her in the gallery outside and he called out, ‘Tanty, look fire’. She ran into the house to save her son. I know sitting outside in the gallery, her front door would be closed. So maybe that is why she did not see the fire flaming up, and the breeze to the back of the house on the eastern side blows day and night. It could be that she tried to run out of the door but it shut on her and the smoke was too much. Then he heard her screaming and screaming, and that was it,” he said.

Neighbours mourn Soogrim

Another neighbour said that from when they saw the house on fire, in about ten minutes they couldn’t see the house anymore as it was engulfed in flames.

As to the cause of the fire, the family said that they hoped that the investigating fire and police officers would answer questions about it, as they were stumped.

The family explained that Soogrim was a Hindu, but she had stopped lighting deyas in the house near her holy pictures and murtis.

Sonnyboy smoked cigarettes but he did not leave them lit because “once there is a cigarette, he would smoke the entire thing, he would not leave it lighting and go to sleep,” Aziz said.

Azim added, however, that a few months ago when Soogrim was spending time with his family, there was another fire at his mother’s house.

“I saw villagers at the house and they told me he (Sonnyboy) lit up a chair downstairs and it started to flame up. The neighbours helped to out it. We cautioned him about using the lighters because he was a smoker,” he said.

When the Express visited the burnt house at School Trace, senior fire officers of the Mon Repos and Princes Town districts were at the scene examining burnt debris and conducting investigations.

Neighbours said that they would miss Soogrim, whom some knew fondly as “Chingoor”.

They said they were aware that Sonnyboy suffered from a mental illness and he was known to walk the streets, and sometimes police officers would return him to his home.

“She was a very nice lady and, no matter what, the lady loved her son and never left him,” said a resident who declined to give her name.

Officers of the Princes Town Fire and Police Stations are continuing investigations.