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Kansas City fire kills seven gathered for birthday party

December 6, 1997

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Seven relatives gathered for a birthday party were killed Friday in one of the worst residential fire in the city’s history, a tragedy investigators said could have been prevented if the smoke detectors in the house had had batteries.

Five other people in the house were injured.

Firefighters said the batteries had been removed from two smoke detectors in the small, two-story house.

``A working smoke detector would have alerted them to the fire before it became fatal,″ said Domenic Cerrone, battalion chief.

It was one of the worst fires in the city’s history. Eight people died in a house fire in 1980 and six people were killed in 1989 when a firebomb was thrown into a house.

Friday’s fire started near a mattress just inside the front door and was reported by a neighbor at 5:41 a.m., Fire Department spokesman Brad Humston said. The victims were upstairs when the fire broke out. Investigators had not determined the cause.

The group gathered to celebrate Lydia Win-Ray’s 30th birthday Thursday night and slept over after the party.

In addition to Ms. Win-Ray, victims included her daughter, Elaina Jessica Ray, 4; the girl’s father, Raad Kareem Al-Naiyer; Ms. Win-Ray’s sister, Tracy Gail Stewart, 32; and her children Alicia Marie Stewart, 7; Sebastian Donovan Stewart, 4; and Nicholas Michael Stewart, 3.

A couple and their three children who had been in a downstairs bedroom with the door shut were treated for smoke inhalation and released. The closed door probably saved their lives, Humston said.

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