At just 4 months of age, Vance Williams III was already on his second chance at life.
In October, Vance was tossed from a burning building by his mother, into the arms of another relative in a fire in Northeast Baltimore that decimated their family — claiming the lives of four children, ages 1, 2, 4, and 7. The blaze also killed Nancy Worrell, the 55-year-old heart of the family, while seriously injuring her husband.
For a family dealt a tremendous blow by tragedy, Little Vance's survival represented hope. But his sudden death this week sent them reeling again.
On Wednesday, police responded to a home in the 2100 block of Belair Road for an infant who was not breathing. Vance's father told investigators that he had put the child in his crib with a bottle and returned more than an hour later to find him face-down and unresponsive.
The child was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:02 p.m.
An autopsy has so far been inconclusive, police said. They are categorizing the death as "suspicious," not uncommon when a cause of death is unknown. Homicide detectives are investigating.
Barbara Hopkins, who said she is Vance's great-great-grandmother, confirmed that Vance was the child saved from the fire.
With his death, mother Shade Worrell has lost all three of her children.
"She lost two children in the fire, and now the girl has no children at all," Hopkins said in a phone interview. "She's only 19. To go through something like this, it's terrible. It's not right."
Hopkins called it a "blessing from God" that the baby had survived the fire.
Worrell had just barely made it out herself. She was inside the home and was becoming dizzy from the smoke.
She called for Roderick Goodman, a nephew who had awoken to the choking smoke and jumped two stories to the ground below. He landed unhurt. But as flames shot out of the first floor of the home, he heard Worrell cry, "Help me, help me! Get my baby!"
He caught the child, and Worrell jumped to safety as well. So did her father, Wilson Worrell, who suffered serious burns and broken bones. But grandmother Nancy Worrell died inside the home. So did her grandchildren Tykia Manley, 7, Darryl Stewart, 4, and K-Niyah Scott, 2, and Nancy Worrell's great-grandchild, whom she was baby-sitting for the evening, 1-year-old James Holden.
Shade Worrell was the mother of Darryl and K-Niyah.
Later that morning, Goodman, standing near the ruined home, had trouble reconciling Vance's rescue with the broader tragedy: "I know I saved the baby, but I wanted to save my whole family."
Hopkins said Worrell had moved in with the child's father after the fire until she could find a permanent residence.
She said family members are still trying to piece together what happened, and are awaiting results of the autopsy before planning yet another family funeral.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun