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'She fought a good fight': Mother speaks after daughter dies, 2nd daughter hurt in Fridley vehicle fire

Updated: August 08, 2019 06:12 PM

The mother of the 6-year-old girl who died after being injured in a van fire in a Fridley Walmart parking lot remembered her daughter as a "bright kid" and someone who loved to be noticed.

Both 6-year-old Ty'rah White and 9-year-old Taraji White were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center with critical injuries after the incident. It was confirmed Wednesday that Ty'rah died from her injuries.

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Essie Mckenzie, the mother of the two, spoke to the media Thursday morning after doctors gave an update on Taraji's condition.

"She fought a good fight, she really did," Mckenzie said when speaking of Ty'rah. "I just really miss her. I really do. I miss her so much." 

Mckenzie says her little girl was the spunky one in the family, full of life and love.

"She was so mature for her age, she was only six years old but she knew so much, she taught me a lot of things in her six years she's been here on this earth," her mother said.

Alexis Mckenzie, Essie's sister, said Essie had brought family members to the airport very early that morning, and swung into Walmart on her way home. Since the girls were up so early, they had fallen asleep in the van, and their mother ran in quickly without them.

"If they were awake and had seen what was going on, I would bet my last dollar those girls would have gotten out of the car on their own, okay, that's how smart they are, but they were asleep and they burned," Alexis Mckenzie said wiping away tears. 

"I know there's a lot of people being negative toward my sister, like why would she leave the kids in the car, but at the end of the day she's a single mother that's raising three kids by herself with no help. When she came out to all that mess, it wasn't her fault," she added.

Essie Mckenzie says she isn't listening to the negative, only focusing on Taraji's recovery.

"I was always a praying mother, you know, I'm trying to keep that same routine to keep my spirits up," she said.

"Just keep praying, we can't lose another baby, my sister is an awesome mom, she's the best mom I know, she loves her kids, they are her world, and this is so tragic, such a freak accident, it just doesn't make sense," Alexis Mckenzie added.

Mckenzie told the media that Taraji is "fighting, still fighting real hard."


More from KSTP: 

Bail set for man accused of causing van fire in Fridley Walmart lot

6-year-old dies after vehicle fire in Fridley Walmart parking lot


Dr. Fred Endorf said Taraji is still in critical condition due to severe smoke inhalation. Endorf said the burn injuries the 9-year-old suffered are less severe.

"Unfortunately with Ty'rah, the smoke inhalation was extremely severe," Endorf said. "One of the worse cases I've ever seen."

He went on to say, "We obviously wish we could have done more for her, unfortunately, there are some injuries that are so severe they exceed our capabilities." 

The man who was charged in connection to the fire, identified as 70-year-old Roberto Lino Hipolito, made his first appearance in court Thursday.

Hipolito is charged with manslaughter and two counts of negligent fire.

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