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'The dynamic duo': Mother, grandmother remember two children killed in Winton Hills house fire

Addyson Marshall and Alijah McKenzie died tragically earlier this month
Posted at 6:34 PM, May 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-23 18:39:06-04

CINCINNATI — A mother and grandmother are opening up about the house fire in Winton Hills that tragically claimed the lives of two children.

Alijah McKenzie, 7, and Addyson Marshall, 5, died earlier this month after a fire at their home on the morning of May 11. Their mother, Asia McKenzie, said she believes an electrical issue sparked the fire at her home on Strand Lane.

“I was already having some electrical problems in my unit that I had expressed with CMHA (Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority)," McKenzie said.

She said her daughter plugged her laptop into the wall and blew a fuse, resulting in a fire.

"It cut all the electricity off inside the house immediately," she said. "I didn't know where it was coming from because it was pitch black."

McKenzie said she did everything she could to get her four children out of the house.

"I felt helpless. I kept running back in, and kept running back in," she said. "And every time I had to come back down the steps, I felt more and more helpless because I know that they were in there looking for me to come and rescue them."

She was able to get two of her kids out safely. The other two were rescued by firefighters and taken to the hospital, but died a week later.

McKenzie and the children's grandmother, Shawnez McKenzie, said they have received an outpouring of support from the community. The home on Strand Lane is draped in balloons, flowers and stuffed animals in memory and Alijah and Addyson.

McKenzie winton hills fire
Addyson and Alijah McKenzie

The mom said both of her kids were incredibly special.

"Alijah — he was one of those charismatic boys," she said. "He had dimples and he can walk into a room and just smile, and everybody looks. He's always been a sweet little boy."

Addyson, she said, was the same way.

"Everybody loves Addison that encountered her," McKenzie said.

"But very sassy — very, very sassy," Shawnez McKenzie added. "I call her big little sister because she ran the household."

The two said they knew Addyson was smart from a very young age. Shawnez McKenzie said she knew she was going to be very special.

"I think what bothers me the most … we won't see what she would've become,” Shawnez McKenzie said.

"She definitely would've changed the world," Asia McKenzie concluded.

The two siblings also had a special bond, with their grandmother calling them "the dynamic duo."

"It's fitting almost, to say that they're together," Shawnez McKenzie said. "They wouldn't have it any other way."

In the aftermath of this tragedy, the McKenzie family is now taking it one day at a time.

"I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy," Shawnez McKenzie said. "Not only is she losing one, she’s losing two."

The two said it's been difficult to see judgments and misinformation circulating about the fire on social media.

"There’s all kinds of things out there. There’s things saying she was not home. Yes, she was home. And if some people would just have some compassion for her, I think it would go a long way," Shawnez McKenzie said.

But the love and support from friends, family and even complete strangers have made a difference.

"I just want to say thank you to the city for showing so much love and appreciation for children that you’ve never met," Asia McKenzie said. "I love my city. You always know when to show out. It's not been easy, but it's been comforting to know I have this support."

The family also commended teachers and staff at Winton Hills Academy for going above and beyond to show their support in the days following the fire. They said staff went to both Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Columbus Hospital to assist the family.

There will be a joint funeral service for the two children this upcoming Saturday. The arrangements are below:

Date: Saturday, May 27

Place: Corinthian Baptist Church

1920 Tennessee Ave 45237

Visitation: 10 a.m. to Noon

Funeral Services: Noon

Repast: We Do Barbeque Restaurant

8070 Hamilton Avenue Mt. Healthy, Ohio 45231

The McKenzie family lost everything in their home in the fire. If anyone would like to donate to the family's GoFundMe, they can do so here.

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