Note: This story appears in the Thursday, Nov. 21 newspaper on Page A3.
LONDONDERRY — State and local officials are seeking the public’s assistance regarding a 2016 structure fire in Vinton County that claimed the life of a child.
Aleigha Hayes, 5, of Wellston, passed away on June 17, 2016 due to injuries stemming from the fire.
The Division of State Fire Marshal’s Fire and Explosion Investigation Bureau (FEIB) and the Vinton County Sheriff’s Office have led the investigation of this incident.
The investigation has remained open since the fire occurred, but recent information provided to the Vinton County Prosecutor’s Office suggests additional witnesses may exist.
“I believe law enforcement and my office owe an obligation to this little girl and her siblings who survived to close this case and bring peace and justice to these children in the event criminal activity was involved,” Vinton County Prosecutor Trecia Kimes-Brown said.
The 2016 fire was reported early in the morning of May 9, 2016 at home on rural Stevens Branch Road, located in the western portion of Vinton County a few miles from Londonderry. Three area fire departments all responded to the scene and found a detached garage and adjacent home both engulfed in flames.
The residents of the garage were reportedly living there while the home was being remodeled.
The child had been visiting the home at the time of the fire. She and her father, Joshua Hayes, were reportedly taken by family members to Adena Regional Medical Center for treatment of severe burns. Joshua was later flown by a medical helicopter to Ohio State University. Aleigha was flown to National Children’s Hospital in Columbus.
Hayes’ medical records reportedly showed she had traces of illegal narcotics in her system when she arrived at the hospital.
Her parents and siblings survived.
A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered by the Blue Ribbon Arson Committee for information regarding the fire. This reward has existed since the fire occurred, but the Vinton County Prosecutor’s Office recently announced it is offering an additional $10,000 reward.
Anyone with information or questions should call the State Fire Marshal’s tip line at 800-589-2728; Chief Deputy Ryan Cain of the Vinton County Sheriff’s Office at 740-596-5242; or Vinton County Prosecutor Trecia Kimes-Brown at 740-596-5583.
* * * Sydney Dawes is the editor of The Vinton-Jackson Courier newspaper.