Mother tells chilling details about apartment fire that killed daughter

Posted at 6:45 PM, Sep 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-21 20:23:39-04

TULSA -- A mother remembers the frightening moments inside the Sand Dollar Apartments as a massive fire broke out in August. 

Ashley Thomas and her 7-year old daughter Lily moved into the complex two days before the fire. 

Thomas said her daughter was so excited that they were going to have their own place to live. 

The mother said she does not know what woke her up at 2:00 a.m. on that Friday. 

"I woke up and I just remember seeing something and I looked and I saw flames," Thomas recalled. 

She called 911 at 2:12 a.m. that morning. Thomas said the first time she called she could not speak because of all of the smoke. She said the operator hung up on her.

"I called back and I remember turning the water on and putting Lily in the bath tub and telling her to get herself wet and putting water in my mouth," Thomas said. "Then I finally said, 'Help! Fire!' to 911 and then I really don't remember anything after that. I remember the light in the closet busting and then I don't remember anything for two days."

Thomas, Lily, Thomas' friend Brittany Tuttle and her 1-year old son Jayce were barricaded inside their apartment surrounded by nothing but flames. 

"There was only two windows and one door and they were all on the same side that the fire was on," Thomas said. "There was no way we could have got out." 

Thomas said she was told firefighters had to cut off part of the building and enter through the attic to get the four out of the home. 

All four of the people in the apartment had to be revived by medics, but 1-year old Jayce could not be saved. 

The next thing Thomas remembers is waking up in the hospital with tubes down her throat. She said she remembered a fire but did not know if she was dreaming. 

She suffered from smoke inhalation and had a small burn on her arm that barely left a scar. 

Tuttle had second-degree burns on her legs and smoke inhalation.

Lily was pronounced brain dead at the hospital. 

"In my heart I knew," Thomas said. 

Thomas said she knew before she was even told that her daughter was dead. She said she still had the tube down her throat so when she heard the news she could only cry. 

Once the tube was removed, she did everything she could to see her before she was removed from life support.

"I checked myself out of ICU after they took my ventilator out and made sure that I went over there," Thomas said. "I told her I was sorry. I remember telling her I was sorry." 

Thomas and Lily's father made the decision to donate her organs. The 7-year old's liver, pancreas and both kidneys were harvested to give another child a chance.

"My baby is a hero," Thomas said with a smile.

Now she wears a pink Hello Kitty bracelet that she found last week. It belonged to Lily. Thomas said it is the little things now like her daughter's socks that she holds on to to remember her.

"Lily, gosh, very energetic," Thomas said with a smile. "She loved to go. You couldn't ever calm her down." 

The mother's physical wounds have healed. Now she is left with questions and heartbreak. 

"Why didn't they go off?" Thomas said. "All smoke detectors go off. Why didn't these ones?" 

Stan May with the Tulsa Fire Department said the cause of the fire is still under investigation. It is currently listed as undetermined.

Investigators have also not determined if smoke detectors went off. 

A third person died in the fire. Long time KJRH engineer Terry Hargraves also passed away. He lived across from Thomas. 

If you would like to help Thomas, a GoFundMe page has been set up. A GoFundMe has also been set up for Tuttle, who lost her 1-year old son. 

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